1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. O’MALLEY presented petitions from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Tasmania, from the Southern Cross District Independent Order of Rechabites from the Independent Order of Good Templars, and from the Tasmanian District Independent Order of Rechabites, praying the House to extend the suffrage to women.
Mr. BARTON laid upon the table the following paper: -
Copy of the tender of Messrs. Bergl and Co. for the supply of meat to the troops in South Africa, and letters relating thereto.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to take steps for the representation of the Commonwealth at the exhibition to be held in Japan next year.
– So far it has not been thought advisable by the Government for the Commonwealth to enter on the large expenditure which would be requisite for its proper representation at this exhibition.
– I desire toask the Prime Minister a question in reference to the proposed conference of Colonial Premiers after the Coronation of the King. Is it his intention, prior to leaving the Commonwealth, to make a statement to the House of what course of action he intends to take at the conference?
– I made a statement on this subject before, to this effect, that, in view of the fact that there is to be a conference in which opinions on all sides are to be heard, it would be impossible for this Govemmentto lay down any hardandfast lines binding itself to any particular course of action. What I can do, as I have done already, is to promise the House that I shall enter upon this matter with a full sense of the Ministerial responsibility to Parliament, and that I shall not take any important step - any step which can be characterized as an important one - except subject to the approval of this House, which will have the opportunity of expressing its approval or disapproval.
– Will the Ministerfor Defence lay upon the table a return giving the particulars of the various amounts set clown in the military estimates as incidentals, horse allowances, and other extras in connexion with the head-quarters staff?
– I do not know exactly what information the honorable member desires. If he will give me a statement of what he wants, I shall be very glad to furnish a return.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence whether, in view of the utterances of an English General as to the courage and character of the members of the Fifth Victorian Contingent, he will take steps to have its members marched through the streets of Melbourne on their disembarkation on Friday, so as to allow the citizens to publicly show their appreciation of their conduct and bravery ?
– I do not much admire the way in which the question is put. If it is desired by the honorable and learned member that troops shall march through the streets, he might have confined his question to that. If he will give notice, I shall consult the military authorities about the matter.
– It will be in the recollection of honorable members that I promised to give them somestatementas toimmediatepublic business to-day. With the indulgence of the House, I shall do so now. I do not promise that the business will be confined to the few subjects which I shall mention, because it becomes necessary at times at the close of a session to bring in some short measures. Honorable members are aware that the Defence Bill, the Inter-State Commission Bill, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill have been discharged from the business-paper. It is not my intention to proceed this session with the High Commissioner Bill, because I think I shall come back from my now impending visit to England with much fuller information as to the functions and powers that a High Commissioner ought to have than I possess at present. The intention of the Government is to proceed with, in addition to the Customs Tariff Bill and the Excise Tariff Bill, the Franchise Bill, the Electoral Bill, and the Postal and Telegraph Rates Bill. It is our intention, of course, to deal with the Estimates, the Additional Estimates, and a very short schedule called the Estimates of arrears of the present session, which are somewhat similar to what are known as Supplementary Estimates in other States. We shall go on with the Bonus Bill, the Loan Bill, and the Loan Application Bill, which is a mere machinery measure. We shall bring in a Bill for a continuance of payments, so that, when the session closes, the necessary payments may be made during the recess, which, if this had been a shorter session, might have been provided for in the Estimates for the current financial year. We shall, if possible, proceed with the Judiciary Bill and High Court Procedure Bill, and I shall ask honorable members to pass a standing order - and the necessary steps to that end will be taken in the Senate also - similar to that which exists in ‘Victoria and in New South Wales, and which is provided for by statute in South Australia, to enable matters which have been dropped in one session to be taken up in another at the stage which they had reached.
– What business will the Government take next week ?
– As much as I can of the business I have mentioned.
– But in that order ?
– I shall not promise to follow that o?’der. The Bonus Bill is nearly connected with the Tariff, and will have to be dealt with. I think that Parliament ought not to rise until it has dealt with, not only the Estimates in chief, and the Additional Estimates, but also the Loan Bill.
– .Will the Government go on next with the Estimates ?
– I cannot promise that. All these things will have to be regulated to a large extent by what we see to be available time, so that heavy matters may not be thrown before the House when it might expeditiously deal with short ones. We must be left some discretion in adjusting and regulating these matters as we go on.
– The statement of the Prime Minister is on the whole satisfactory, although I do not think he will be able to carry out the programme he proposes.
– Order ! The Prime Minister made a statement by leave of the House, but it cannot be discussed.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. BARTON) : -
That the honorable member for Wentworth have leave to discuss the matters referred to by the Prime Minister.
– i do not wish to introduce any debatable matter. I only desire to voice what I think is the feeling of a large number of honorable members. Parliament cannot be prorogued until the Tariff has come back from the Senate, and has been passed by both Houses. But I take it for granted that the moment it has passed through both Houses the prorogation will take place without further delay.
– Not unless the Electoral Bill is through, I should hope.
– Not until the Electoral Bill is through, so far as I am concerned.
– The Electoral Bill is a very important measure. The Judiciary Bill will take a very long time to discuss. So far as I can feel the pulse of the House, there is a general feeling that Parliament ought to prorogue as soon as possible after the Tariff has been put through both Houses, and that it would not be right to rush through in a very short time any such important measures as the Judiciary Bill or the Electoral Bill, or any other Bill of farreaching results, which ought to be fully and exhaustively discussed by both Houses. Therefore the more work that we can do before the Tariff Bills comeback with probable suggestions, the better for ourselves ; but that ought to be the limit of the work of this session.
At a later stage
– I understand that this afternoon our attention is to be chiefly devoted to the Franchise Bill and the monthly Supply Bill. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether, in the event of our passing the Supply Bill, it would not be possible for us to adjourn this evening until next week.
– The honorable member will see that in order to enable us to receive the Supply Bill back from the Senate and pass it into law, we shall have to ask honorable members to hold at least a formal meeting to-morrow to receive the message with the Bill. That, however, will not occupy very much time, and it might be possible to secure a quorum, and at the same time give honorable members generally an opportunity of getting away. It has been suggested that the Supply Bill might be finally dealt with on Tuesday ‘next, but I find that that will not do, because the Treasurer has to get his communications away to Western Australia before then. If honorable members will support me in the proposal I am going to make, and if we can get through the Franchise Bill and the Supply Bill this afternoon, by the time at which we ordinarily close our business on Fridays, I will agree to adjourn, subject to a formal meeting to-morrow, until Tuesday. Honorable members will be ready to recognise that I must be somewhat pressed for time just now, and as there are still some important matters to be dealt with before I leave, I would ask them to agree to sit on Friday night, and perhaps for some portion of Saturday next week. As I leave on the following Tuesday, I think that is a courtesy I can reasonably ask the House to extend to me. Honorable members will recollect that the departure of members of this House for the inspection of the suggested sites of the federal capital, will, take place on Tuesday week, and that there will probably be no sittings of this House for a fortnight. This affords an additional reason for asking honorable members to sit late on Friday, and, if necessary, on Saturday of next week. If I hear no objection raised on the voices, I shall take it that the House is agreeable to my suggestion.
HONORABLE MEMBERS - Hear, hear.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the tide-waiters employed by the Customs department in Sydney have been working continuously night and day for a very long period without getting relief or any remuneration, and, if so, is it intended to compensate the officers ?
– There is a question on the business-paper to-day in my name.
– I should not have asked the question if I had known that.
– I may take” the opportunity of saying that I have not yet got that full information which is wanting, and I do not propose to discuss the matter just now. I can assure honorable members that it is receiving attention.
– Order ! The Minister is anticipating the answer to the question No. 1. “ If the question of the honorable member for Dalley refers to that question, both the question and the answer are out of order.
Mi-. HIGGINS. - With regard to the Inter-State Commission Bill, the Minister for Home Affairs promised me two or three weeks ago that he would find out what specific matters have arisen, and have come to his notice, which render the Bill necessary and I wish to know when he thinks that he will be able to give us the information ?
– I gave instructions that the information should be obtained, and I shall inquire about it again to-morrow, and make it available as soon as I possibly can. That may be next week.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has considered the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Canobolas with regard to the suspension of fodder duties ?
– I have not fully considered the matter, and I am not able at this moment to distinctly declare what can be done. I recognise that the matter is an important one, and I will give it further consideration, although I am not hopeful that I shall be able to do anything in the direction indicated. I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of a question on the subject.
Suspension or FODDER Duties.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Illawarra that he desires to move the adjournment of the House, to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The disastrous effects of the drought, and the necessity for remitting the duties on forage for a period.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– In moving the adjournment of the House this afternoon, I’ have no desire to interfere more than I possibly can with the proposed arrangements of the Government for the transaction of business, or with the convenience of honorable members ; but the answer which has been given by the Minister for Trade and Customs in connexion with the question asked by the honorable member for Canobolas yesterday, and the great importance of this subject to the whole of the people of Australia, justifies me in calling attention to what must be deemed a national calamity. We have had an unexampled drought throughout nearly every part of this great country. It is absolutely without precedent so far as its severity and its widespread character are concerned, and considering the extent to which the great pastoral, dairying, and other industries are being handicapped by nature, and are being placed at a further disadvantage by the duties imposed upon fodder under the Tariff, I am sure that honorable members will support me in my present action. No matter on which side of the House honorable members may sit, they must have every sympathy with the pioneers of this country who are developing our wealth by engaging in mining, dairying, and agriculturalindustries, and who are all suffering from the effects of the drought. Those who represent city constituencies, where people have all the advantages of civilization and know little, comparatively, of the struggles of the pioneers in the country districts, must extend their sympathy and their hearty support to those who represent country constituencies, and who know of the conditions under which the great primary industries have to be carried on. The great pastoral industry is suffering most severely from the drought. It is not necessary for me to quote many figures to make thisclear to the minds of honorable members. This industry has played a most important part in the building up of the Australian nation, and was for many years the backbone of our prosperity. It is still one of the most important of our industries, and any one reading the newspapers must have seen reports day after day of the terrible struggles of those who are fighting against the drought. In a matter of this kind, where we find that men are not only unable to make any money out of their industry, but are actually seeing their stock dying in hundreds and thousands, no words of mine are required to commend their case to the favorable consideration of every member of this House. I have a telegram from one of the largestland-owners in New South Wales, which I can quote to honorable members as a sample of others which I have received from settlers in that State. No doubt other honorable members have received similar communications from their States. For years past our flocks and herds have been decimated - our flocks to the extent of millions, and our herds by hundreds of thousands - and every effort should be made to enable those who require fodder to keep their stock alive, to obtain it at the cheapest possible rate. This telegram is from a well-known squatter, the owner of Burrawang Station, in the constituency represented by the honorable member for Canobolas. He points out that in order to keep his stock alive he has to use 25 tons of hay and 25 tons of wheat daily, at a cost of £300.
– How many stock has he?
– About 30,000. Reports from Warren, Gilgandra, Bliwarana, and all parts of New South Wales tell a similar tale.
– Are we not exporting fodder very largely at the present time?
– Fodder was being exported before we knew what was to come ; some of the wheat which has been sent away will have to be brought back here.
– In connexion with the pastoral industry, I feel satisfied that the reading of this telegram, with the reports which have appeared in the papers, will be sufficient to convince honorable members of the very serious condition of affairs which prevails at the present time. Now, take the position of the dairying industry. In the favoured parts of New South Wales. - the Illawarra, Camden, Richmond, and other districts, which are looked upon as the pick of dairying localities - we have our stock dying by hundreds every day. In years gone by, when the dry seasons were not nearly so bad, we used hundreds of thousands of tons of hay, chaff, and other fodder which was brought from New Zealand ; but, owing to the imposition of the duties under the present Tariff, all these importations have been stopped, and we are unable to obtain the fodder necessary to keep our stock alive, no matter what price we may be prepared to pay for it. I have a telegram from Mr. McArthur Onslow, the Mayor of Camden, and one of the largest dairy farmers in New South Wales, who, acting in his official capacity, says : -
Movement here to petition Federal Government to remit duties on forage for six months, or until the end of the drought. High prices and scarcity prevent farmers keeping stock alive. Can you move in the matter or advise us how to act? Urgent matter, as there are heavy losses daily.
We know that they have had a good harvest in New Zealand, and surely in view of the unprecedented drought-stricken conditions which prevail throughout Australia, we ought to do everything we can to make fodder available to stock-owners at the cheapest possible rate. We know that on the Richmond and Clarence and other rivers on the north coast of New South Wales, where vast quantities of maize are ;grown, the crops have not produced more than one-third of the usual quantity. Victoria has been perhaps more favoured in connexion with rainfall than any other part of Australia, but I find that during the first fourteen weeks of this year the amount of wheat received from the farmers has been over 4,000,000 bushels less than during the same period last year.
– Does the honorable member say that they have had a good grain season in New Zealand 1
– A fairly good season.
– Is not wheat dearer there than here?
– Yes, and bread is also dearer, but that all tends to show how scarce all agricultural produce is. My point is that our producers ought to be able to obtain from New Zealand, or from any other part of the world, as cheaply as possible the * fodder required to keep their stock alive. Then from the same cause we have troubles arising in connexion with the great mining industry. Even in mv own district there is one mine, the supply of water for which costs £50 per day, and other representatives of mining districts throughout Australia know that in a great many places mines have been absolutely closed in consequence of - the drought. In order to show the distribution of production in the primary and other productive industries, as compared with the manufacturing industries, I may remind honorable members that the agricultural industry represents ,£17,929,000 ; the, pastoral industry, £33,088,000 ; the dairying industry, £S,023,000 ; the mining industry, £22,201,000; and forestry, £2,366,000, or, roughly speaking, a total of £100,000,000. On the other hand, the manufacturing industries, -yhich have received the greatest consideration in connexion with the Tariff introduced by the present Administration
– The honorable member must not refer to that question.
– The primary industries I have mentioned are at present having an experience with which I am sure every honorable member has the fullest sympathy. We were told before federation that the Federal Parliament would get away from all provincialism and all parochialism. But how have these industries been treated by the present Government 1 It appears to me that they have been entirely ignored, whilst every small industry in and around the big cities, particularly Melbourne, lias received full consideration. It was pointed out time after time that the duties, the suspension of which I am now advocating, would not be required during seasons of plenty. As to agriculture it was said that there would be more than enough production for the people of the whole of Australia, and we know that, in order to keep the industry in a proper state, we have * for a considerable time past been compelled to export and take our chance in the markets of the world. As I say, it was pointed out that the duties would be operative in times of scarcity and drought. Such times we are now experiencing ; and the duties having been imposed for some months past, the people affected by them are feeling the pinch. I appeal to the Government, as sensible men, to recognise that we are a drought-stricken country, and to say that it is fair, under the grave circumstances, to permit a suspension of the duties. We were told at one time that the policy of the Government was to be revenue without destruction.
Mi-. SPEAKER.- The honorable member is again going beyond the bounds.
– -I do not wish to transgress or to speak at any very great length, but I should like to point out that these duties have been imposed by the Government, and not by the Parliament - that the duties will not be imposed by the Parliament until the Tariff Bill has passed the Senate. In New South Wales, the State with which I am most closely acquainted, the Railway Commissioners recognise the necessity of carrying food for stock at very cheap rates : and in view of that fact, it is not unreasonable to ask the Federal Government to make the concession which I now advocate. Those engaged in the primary industries are fighting not only against nature, but also against the duties which have been imposed by the Government. In New South Wales the Minister of Lands is at present taking
– The honorable member must not discuss that aspect of the question.
– The duties, for the suspension of which I ask, bear hardly on those to whom I have referred. I ask the Government not to think only of the men engaged in manufacturesin the cities, who enjoy the benefits and comforts of civilization, and know comparatively nothing of the state of affairs in the interior. I ask the Government to suspend these duties, for six months at any rate, and thus give the hardy, struggling pioneers - the battlers in our central, and western divisions - the opportunity of getting what is absolutely necessary in order to keep their stock alive.
– I should like to emphasize the appeal which has been made by the honorable member for Illawarra for humane treatment on the part of the Government at this particular juncture. No appeal is being made for the- -repeal of these duties, but merely 34 d 2 for their suspension until the time of drought and stress is at an end. We are asking for no new thing; there is no lack of precedent for action of the kind on the part of the Government. It has been the rule, I believe, all over the world in the times of drought and financial stress for Governments to take special action, such as is now proposed. All civilized Governments in times of great national emergency have suspended the operation of laws, which, under normal and ordinary conditions, would take their proper course and effect. We simply say that in New South Wales in particular - though I apprehend that similar conditions prevail in Queensland and other portions of the continent - there is a time of unparalleled drought which forms a strong reason for the suspension of duties which operate harshly on the people of the interior. No eloquence is necessary to commend the case to the sympathetic hearts of the Government. I feel sure that they sympathize with the people who are struggling under adverse conditions in the interior of Australia. I only ask leave to quote a few newspaper extracts setting out the facts which tell their own tale of shocking disaster and trouble. Prom the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day, we find that in Goulburn large purchases of chaff and fodder are taking place in order that stock may be kept alive. At Narrabri the lambs are nearly all dying on account of the impoverished condition of the ewes, and the construction of the Narrabri- Walgett railway is suspended, owing to the inability to get sleepers, consequent on the severity of the drought. We are further told that animals are constantly being drowned in the river whilst trying .to obtain weeds for food. At Glen Innes, a Newcastle firm has purchased 4,000 bags of maize at £1 per bag, and at Parkes nearly every owner is hand-feeding his sheep. At Quirindi all traces of herbage have disappeared. At Scone every carter is busily engaged conveying fodder, in order to keep stock alive ; and at Yass recourse has been had to artificial feeding. To-day I received a letter from a gentleman at Penrith, in my own electorate, who, evidently not aware that this matter was to be brought before Parliament, says : -
Seeing the terrible condition of pastoralists and dairymen in our district, and which I believe is I the condition almost all over the land, I thought I would ask you if it i3 possible foi’ the Federal
Parliament to do anything as a matter of urgency to minimize the evil. You can hardly conceive a worse condition than that existing at the present moment and with a long winter ahead,. Could not something be done in the way of suspending the duties on fodder, &c, for the winter? I understand that in New Zealand there is a splendid harvest, and surely we should not shut some of this out in our time of need. I have written strongly to Sir William Lyne oil the matter, in the hope that he may take the matter up.
The writer of that letter, Mr. A. Judges, is a well-known and leading man in the district ; and other honorable members have had similar tales of pleading poured into their ears. I appeal to the Government to take some action before it be too late, and, having regard to the oncoming of winter, to suspend the fodder duties so that the people may get the where-with-all to keep their stock alive. In New South Wales the Government have had to go to the assistance of industries, which, but for that unusual action, would to-day be absolutely closed down. In the district of the honorable member for Cowper, who can bear out what I am saying, the Government have had to supply the mines with water, and every day railway trains are despatched with water in order to keep the industries and enterprises in operation. We are further told that artesian water is being freely supplied in the back country without the usual charges. The Minister for Lands of New South Wales, in his sympathy for the drought-stricken people, is foregoing and suspending rents ; and, altogether, the Government of that State have had to take extraordinary action in order to tide people over the calamitous time. We ask the Federal Government to join the State Government, and, acting clearly within their functions, to suspend the fodder duties. These charges affect the people only in time of drought. There would be no need whatever to ask for a remission of duties of this kind under a normal condition of affairs, for the simple reason that little or none of these imports are made under ordinary circumstances. It is only when distress is greatest, when the calamity is worst, that these duties pan operate harshly in the way that they are doing to-day. We appeal, therefore, to the Government, having regard to the disastrous condition of things in the far west, and indeed all over New South Wales, to suspend these duties for a fixed period, say for six months. It is within their power to do so. There is abundant precedent for it, and by doing so the Government would show that sympathy,’ which the men far back have a right to expect in the trying conditions in which they find themselves.
– I cannot refrain from adding a few words in support of the proposal made by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra. If it is true, as has been stated by the honorable member for Parramatta, that the Government have the power to remit the duties on imported fodder, they should certainly do so. I am not aware that they have, that power.
– If they have not the power they can .obtain it.
– That is another matter. If the Government have not the power they should ask Parliament to give it to them. I have no hesitation in saying that we are probably on the eve of the greatest disaster which these States have ever suffered. In Victoria where the farmers have been put in a safer position by the recent bounteous rains the danger may not appear so evident as it is to those of us who come from other States, and more especially those who have an intimate knowledge of the bush of New South Wales. I have recently travelled over a great portion of that State, and I can assure the House that a more disastrous condition of affairs has never existed before. I have seen droughts of great severity, but they have been partial in their extent. There never was a drought extending so widely as the present one does, from the borders of Victoria to the far north of Queensland. If rain fell within the next few weeks; no doubt the great disaster which threatens us would be averted. But it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the dry weather may continue for many weeks to come, and I do not hesitate to say that if it does the result will be great loss to Australia. I estimate that there will be a loss of from £10,000,000 to £20,000,000 by the death of stock. The proposal to suspend the duties on imported fodder is a very small matter, and it would be becoming on the part of this Parliament to assist the chief industry of the country in the way suggested. The duties amount to £1 per ton on imported hay, and I can assure honorable members that at the present moment hundreds of thousands of sheep in New South Wales are being fed on fodder. It is estimated by those who have an intimate knowledge of the matter that there is not a two months’ supply of fodder in all Australia. In such circumstances, surely it is the duty of the Minister, if he has the power, to take the responsibility of remitting these duties. I voted for the imposition of the duties on imported fodder.
– Is not the honorable member sorry now ?
– I am not. This is an exceptional time. Probably we shall never have such an experience again, and surely when the supply of fodder in this country is practically exhausted, we should remit the duties t I represent a farming district, which to 1113’ knowledge has been raked fore and aft, if I may use the expression, by people in search of fodder for starving stock on the western slopes of New England and the western plains of New South Wales. Several gentlemen have told me recently that they do not know where to go in order to obtain feed for their stock. They have bought up every bit of fodder to be found in these districts. The supply has become exhausted, and prices have gone up. Although Irepresent a farming community, and am in favour of a duty on fodder in normal times, I lock upon the present as a time of great emergency, and while the drought continues it is the duty of the Government to remit these duties in order to endeavour to save the country from the great disaster which threatens it.
– I am sure that the Government are not wanting in sympathy for distress wherever found, and of whatever character. There can be no doubt that of recent years some very severe droughts have been experienced, and that the drought which afflicts some portions of Australia at present is of longstanding, and one of the worst we have ever suffered. At the same time the question before the House involves some considerations other than those of pure sympathy with those in distress. I am happy to reflect that all parts of Australia are not so afflicted, but that in a- considerable area of it there has been a yield of fodder sufficient not only to meet local requirements, but to supply to some extent foreign wants and support a considerable export trade. If that produce were diverted from the foreign trade to the home markets of those districts which are suffering from the effect of drought, the question of duty would not of course arise. Being Australian produce it would be admitted duty free. I am hopeful that there is nothing that would absolutely prohibit such a course being followed, and that if those who are suffering look around they will find that in other States supplies can be obtained, entirely free from duty, which will largely meet their wants.
– There is not two months’ supply in all Australia.
– I think the honorable member is in error. Of course it is a little difficult to discuss a matter of this kind on a motion without notice, and when we have not all the available data before us. There can be no doubt, however, that a considerable export trade in Australian fodder is still going on, and that if the supplies being forwarded to the foreign markers were diverted to Australian use they would undoubtedly meet a portion of the difficulty.
– If fodder is being exported, the inference is that prices outside are higher than those ruling locally.
– Yes, and therefore the distress cannot have manifested itself in a phenomenal rise in local values. I would put it to honorable members that it was not so long ago that we discussed broadly the question of droughts, and that we came to the conclusion, after a review of all the circumstances, that it was right to impose a duty of ls. per cwt. on hay and chaff. We imposed that duty, and we did not give to the Executive the power to suspend or alter it. Are we not at this moment contending for an alteration of constitutional law ? And would not the power to make that alteration be a very dangerous one indeed for any Government to possess - the power to make an alteration in the Tariff contrary to the terms which have been declared so recently by Parliament? If a suspension of these duties were granted, a suspension of any other duties might be asked for. Although we might call it a suspension, it would be really a repeal of the duties for a time. It seems to me that, however much a Ministry might crave the power, it is one which ought not to be conferred on any Government. No Government should have the power to alter or even reduce taxation when Parliament has declared its will. In accordance with the approved constitutional practice that has long prevailed, certain duties are in force, and to suggest that the Government should take upon themselves this power-
– By Bill?
– By Bill. The suggestion that the Government should take upon themselves the power to suspend or repeal these duties seems to me to present for the consideration of the House a departure from constitutional practice which it would be very difficult indeed to defend.
– Could not the House suspend these duties by resolution 1
– I think not. I would put it to honorable members further that it ought not to be done. I do not think that such a thing should be allowed under any circumstances. The permanency of a Tariff is of the utmost importance. If hay is’ to be subject to a duty of ls. per Cwt to-day and to be free to-morrow, where will the producers be 1 They will be at the sweet will and pleasure of the Government. If the power to suspend applied to that item it might apply to 50 others. Would the House be prepared to assent to anything of the sort? I think not. A Government having that power uncontrolled would be a menace to trade and commerce. No one could be certain for a day of what was to be done. It is on the permanency of the Tariff that much in commerce depends. What commercial movement of any kind could go on if upon an occasion of this description a Government were to take to itself, or to attempt to do so, the power to alter conditions which had been declared by Parliament 1 I think the proposal cannot be carried out. I would say to honorable members, “ “Do not be in too much of a hurry to alter the conclusions at which you arrived so recently.” The conclusions were arrived at from a consideration of our ripe knowledge of the condition of affairs in Australia. This is a drought such as Australia has suffered before.
– Never to such an extent.
– I do not mind the honorable member putting it that way. I have no very special knowledge of the subject. Admitting that it is almost unique in its intensity, I have pointed out the way in which a remedy may be applied. I go further, and say this : - We have had a question raised as regards revenue, but I do not attach any great importance to the question of revenue in this connexion. I say that in regard to those things which are local to a very great extent, the State Governments are best able to do what is necessary
– They are doing all thev can ?
– They can bring their special local knowledge to the consideration of the question of what is best to be done.
– What can they do ?
– I will tell the honorable member in a moment. As regards some of the States, the drought is. unknown. We cannot suspend the duty as regards this or that State.- The suspension must apply to all, and amongst them the States that do not require it. If, however, we collect these duties, every penny of the money collected goes into the coffers of the States. There is no deduction made, and the Governments of the States affected, having the money and the railways, and the special knowledge, are in a position to do what they like with the money collected, with the advantage of the knowledge they possess. They can, as regards the amount collected, vote every sixpence of it, and more, for the relief of those in distressed circumstances. They can supplement this aid by railway concessions, and it is, therefore, very much better that we should leave it to the States themselves to act in this matter, and be true to our Constitution, to the Tariff to which we have agreed, and to the principles of constitutional law, upon which we should act. I have never heard of any Government having the power, or attempting to exercise the power, of remitting Customs taxation. What the State Governments have sometimes done has been to place money upon the Estimates, and ask Parliament to vote it, for the purpose of recouping to those affected - it might be, for instance, in connexion with seed wheat- the amount of duty which they have paid.
– That was done in South Australia.
– That was done in South Australia, and that is a legitimate course to pursue. That is what I am suggesting may be clone in this instance. TheState Governments may do whatever they like in the matter, but constitutional law forbids us the power to do what is asked. We do not possess that power. Circumstances prevent us from doing what is asked, and we have not sufficient knowledge to deal with the question. As a Federal Parliament we should be altogether too unwieldy a body to attempt to deal with these matters of local concern.
– Local ?
– Yes, State concern. We should leave it to the State Governments ; they have the knowledge’ and they have the money, and they can devote that money entirely as they see fit under the circumstances. Have we the right to say to them, “ We will take from you the funds which are requisite to enable you to deal with this matter ; whether you like it or not, we, the Federal Government, will unconstitutionally deprive you of the control of it?” Is it not far better that we should say to the State Governments, “ Take that to which you are entitled ; there it is undiminished ; you may use it in a way in which we could not use it. You have the power, and we can give you the funds. Do what is best for those in distress, and may Providence assist you to a wise conclusion.” I believe that is putting the position rightly and fairly with a due regard for constitutional practice, and with a sincere desire that we should not encroach upon State privileges. We give the States an opportunity of dealing with that which it is natural they should be best able to deal with, and I am inclined to think they will deal with it better than we possibly could.
– As the representative of a large country constituency, extending over something like 67,000 square miles, and having had about twelve months’ experience upon a Royal commission appointed to specially inquire into the condition of the whole of the western division of New South Wales, I am able to speak with personal knowledge and observation of the state of things in the west. I .say that nothing which can be said here can exaggerate the very serious condition in which the people of those districts are placed, and the urgent need there is that something should be done by some authority to help them. Those districts are suffering from what is practically a famine. It is not a temporary drought, but one which has lasted for six or seven years, and the unfortunate part of it is that during this last year it has extended to the rest of New South Wales. Although over 20,000,000 of stock have died during the past few years from want of grass, there has been since 1S99 a loss ot 15,000,000 stock from the western division, some from deaths, and some from removal into the central division, and stock have now to be fed to keep them alive, even in the central division. People have been raking up every bit of fodder that “could be got, and every thing that stock could eat, and to give an instance, I can refer to one station, Burrawang, neai- Forbes, where they are now consuming 35 tons of fodder per week to keep their stock alive. It is useless for the Minister for Trade and Customs to talk about getting the necessary supplies from the other States. The supplies would come principally from Victoria, but theVictorian producers have entered into contracts, which must be kept, to supply South Africa, and we cannot divert that produce to New South Wales. That is a phase of the situation which I think the Minister doesnot grasp. I do not desire to urge any” breaking of constitutional law or practice,, but the Minister, seemed to think that itwould be possible to divert the produce from Victoria to New South Wales. The only State from which produce can be got immediately is New Zealand ; and hence the request which has been made. The condition of affairs in the Western district is serious. If we were told of a famine in India, I venture to say that the Government and every one else would hunt around for subscriptions to help the peoplethere, and it should be remembered that we have now a famine amongst our own people, and amongst a people who are too independent in spirit to ask for charity or for aid in that way. As to the StateGovernments rendering assistance, I may say that in New South Wales the Government have done pretty well all they could do. They arranged to carry starving stock to the inside districts at a reduction of 50”’ per cent, on the original rates, and a further reduction of 25 per cent, on their return. In addition to that they are carrying fodder at specially low rates to the stock outside. So far as the railway service is concerned, they are doing all they can. They have also practically held over and suspended the payment of rents. There is no authority under theAct to do that, but it has been done becauseit is not desired to drive people off the land. The drought has extended through Queensland as well as New South Wales. Victoria had the good fortune recently to get some rain, but I have been in the western part of this State, and unless they get further rain the outlook in that district will be anything but good. In New South Wales the drought has extended to the coastal districts, and in the border country, from which supplies were usually got, “ they now require what they produce for themselves. I think the honorable member for Illawarra was quite justified in bringing this matter before Parliament. I am sure he has the sympathy of the Government, but it struck me that the Minister for Trade and Customs from his reply did not seem to be aware of the very serious condition in which a large portion of the population find themselves, and did not seem to realize the full extent of the trouble, as I have said the drought has practically resulted in a famine owing to the want of fodder. I know that there are stations in my own electorate on which two’ years ago £200 and £300 per week were being paid to keep the sheep alive. The sheep were eating their heads off then, -and there has practically been no rain in the district since. The Government are carrying water to these districts in some instances for over 120 miles, not only to meet the needs of the towns, “but to supply the mines that they may be kept working, so that the people engaged in them may earn something to keep them alive. The people of the back country are leaving it, and the stock are dying ; and, as I have said, the condition of affairs could not be exaggerated. From personal observation, and from having heard the sworn testimony of the people concerned, I am able to speak as to the condition of S7,000,000 acres of the western portion of New South Wales. Something should certainly be done to remedy this serious state of affairs, either by this Government or by the State Governments, and I have felt that the matter should be pushed further than appears to be likely from the way in which the Minister for Trade and ^Customs has treated the request which has been made.
– It is to be hoped that the Government will see their way to suspend the operation of the Tariff as applied to fodder. The Minister appeared to think that the report of the drought was exaggerated. I can assure him that that is not so. I have j just received a letter from one of my .sons who is at the Windsor Grammar School on the Hawkesbury River. He tells me that the Nepean River, in many localities, has gone dry, and that the farmers are without water. The Nepean River runs right through the dairying district within the county of Cumberland, and the water supply of Sydney, which is taken from the Nepean, is within two months of exhaustion. That should be sufficient evidence for the Minister that the demand for some relief on behalf of the dairymen is a genuine demand. As to what may be done in the way of relief for these people by the supply of fodder from Victoria and the other States, it must be borne in mind, that they have to buy their fodder in the cheapest market, and for New South Wales the cheapest market is the Sydney market, supplied by produce coming from New Zealand. If the request made now is granted by the Minister for Trade and Customs, it will make to dairy farmers a difference of something like £1 per ton. I can assure honorable members that in many cases people who have stock in anything like condition, have to sell them in order to get money to keep alive the remainder of their stock. All over the county of Cumberland the stock have been dying in thousands; and it is of a class that cannot easily be replaced. It was chiefly bred from stock imported by farmers, and they crossed the herds of one another to such an extent that they had a very excellent class of cattle. Something must be done to help them. People have not the money to pay the increased price for fodder caused by the duty that has to be paid under the Tariff. In my own district of Robertson, I find that dairymen at Dubbo are paying as much as £40 per week to supply their dairy stock with fodder. They have to bring the fodder all the way from Sydney to that wide district. The same remark, applies to Wellington, Rylston and Mudgee, and to Cassilis, and Merriwa, whilst in New England the stock are dying in tens of thousands. The honorable member for New England estimates that the loss to the stock-owners will amount to something like from £10,000,000 to £20,000,000 if this drought continues. If the Government have power to remit the duties’ we ought to come to the rescue of the people whom we directly represent, knowing full well that the State Government would offer no opposition whatever. It is not as if the money would come out of the revenue of the impecunious States. It would not ; it would come out of the revenue of New South Wales, where the State Government has more than £1,000,000 above what it requires from the Commonwealth Tariff. If the Government remit the duties on fodder they will give general satisfaction to the people of New South Wales. I know that that is the case in the far western district of that State. If the Government are unable to remit the duties it is to be hoped that they will take some steps in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales, by which relief may be afforded to the stock-owners, graziers, and dairymen of the very wide district affected by the drought, which is so severe that people are really losing all that they possess. This is a matter of national consequence. We ought to do all we can to keep the people on their holdings. I trust that the Prime Minister will make some statement on the subject. I cannot believe that he will support the statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, or that he will evade the statements made by honorable members. He will, I trust, recognise that something should be done for the afflicted country, of which he is so proud, and for which he says he is ever ready to do his best. He now has an excellent opportunity, and it would do his Government a great deal of good in New South Wales if he would take action in the matter at once.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs must have overlooked section 86 of the Constitution, when he said that the Executive Government of the Commonwealth had no power to deal with a matter of this sort. I would remind him, in the first place, that according to the generally expressed opinion of honorable members, there is no such thing as a law relating to customs duties in operation in the Commonwealth. The Executive Government, by a purely executive act, have imposed a duty of. ls. per cental on grain and pulse, and a duty of something like 2s. 6d. per cental on grain and pulse, n.e.i.
– I wish to call attention to the fact that it is disorderly for honorable members to stand about the gangways and passages of the Chamber holding conversations, and that it is highly disorder])’ that conversation-should be conducted in such a tone as seriously to interfere with the honorable and learned member who is addressing the House being heard.
– Section S6 of the Constitution says that on the establishment of the Commonwealth the control of duties of customs and excise, the collection of them, and the payment of bounties shall pass under the control of the Executive Government of the Commonwealth. Therefore this is clearly a matter which it is entirely within their power to deal with. But even if it were not so, I would remind honorable members that the mere passing of a resolution by this House that there shall be a duty of ls. per cental on grain and pulse does not make the imposition of that duty an Act of Parliament. Grain and pulsealso include flour, which is a very serious matter for the people of the cities, considering the rise of the price of the 4 lb. loaf from 4d. to 6d., and the increase in the price of flour of £2 15s. per ton owing to the duties. It is only in this House that the resolution has been passed. It has not yet been dealt with by the Senate. It is quite open for the Government when introducing their Bill into the Senate at once to do away with the proposal to charge these duties, leaving them to be reimposed, if they think fit, on some future occasion. There is no doubt that the present drought is entirety unprecedented. It afflicts the greater portion of Australia in a manner so severe as to be unknown “ within the memory of the oldest inhabitant.” At all events nothing like it has been known since 1S37 to 1840. Creeks that were dry then and have never been dry from that period up to a recent date are dry now. I cannot refrain from referring to the callousness of the Minister for Trade and Customs in his consideration of this matter. It is notorious that the amount of fodder that is required to feed the stock at the present time cannot be obtained in Australia, yet the Minister treated the matter as a light one. He -seemed to think that there is some compensation in the probability that work will be found for men who have to go and pick the wool off the dead sheep. He appears to consider that it will give employment to labour to have to go round the stations in the back blocks and take the skins of the dead cattle, even although the men engaged in the task get pneumonia. A greater exhibition of callousness has never been exhibited than in the statement of the Minister this afternoon, that the Executive is not able to deal with this subject. One would think that the right honorable gentleman cannot be aware of what is going on throughout Australia. That is the only excuse that can be found for him.
– I understand that this debate hinges upon the alleged desirability of suspending the duties in respect of fodder. Several of the previous speakers have referred to the drought as though no such thing had ever occurred in Australia before. They have talked as if they were the first to discover it. But we have had drought in other parts of Australia, and our people have not run begging to the local Parliaments or to the Commonwealth Parliament for assistance. The latest quotations I have with regard to the price 6f fodder are from a region that is not drought-stricken. It must be remembered that these duties were fixed to protect those parts of the Commonwealth territory which have plenty of rain. The object of the duty was not only to maintain the present production of grain, but to enable the producers to enlarge the area under cultivation. I assure this House, and through this House the country, that there are hundreds of tons of fodder in South-eastern Queensland, where the rainfall is never less than from 33 to 100 inches per annum. In the Woodford, Upper Brisbane and Stanley regions, the people cannot sell, their fodder. It was only the other day that lucerne was sold at 25s. per ton.
– It is £6 10s. per ton in New South Wales.
– PATERSON. - There are many parts of Queensland, especially in the north-western territory, where there is an excellent rainfall. What were the quotations this day week at Darling Downs ? Wheat was from 3s. 3d. to 3s. 6d. per bushel ; wheaten chaff from £2 per ton to £2 15s. per ton; oaten hay, £3 pelton ; oaten chaff, £3 to £3 10s. per ton ; and lucerne from 5s. to 10s. higher. These are regarded as increased prices, and hence the report says that the operations of the market are brisk. I also notice that honey was selling at 1 3/4d. per lb. I mention these particulars for the purpose of giving information to the country.
– Is the honorable and learned member arguing against any remission of the duties t
– I shall stoutly oppose any abrogation of the law. I do not see how any Government could do it except by special Act of Parliament. The purpose of the establishment of the Commonwealth was to enforce Customs duties against the outside world, and we should especially object to the remission of the duty of £1 pelton on hay and chaff. Why did these States coalesce? Por the purpose of promoting agricultural production, and so that when, one part of Australia was in need of a certain commodity, the want could be supplied from another part. Certain parts of Australia are now suffering from drought, and can be supplied from other parts of the Commonwealth. I object to the statement that all Australia is suffering from drought.. There are parts of Australia where the rainfall is so considerable that it is not measured by the inch,’ or even by the foot, but by the yard. The producers there have any quantity of root crops and fodder to supply to the other parts of the Commonwealth. There is no need, therefore, to suspend the duty of £1 per ton which is levied against the importation of certain kinds of fodder from other countries, but we should rather encourage the other parts of Australia which are producing fodder as it wasintended we should do. There are hundreds of thousands of acres that are producing nothing at the present moment, and which could profitably be devoted to the growth of fodder.
– As the representative of the largest pastoral constituency in the whole of the Commonwealth, I have a few words to say upon this subject. I can speak from practical experience. In Western Queensland we have been suffering from drought for the past five years, and we are entering upon one of the most serious and critical periods that the pastoral industry in Queensland has ever had to face. Por the honorable and learned member for Brisbane to get up and say that there is no need for the remission of the duties on fodder is most surprising. I am astounded at his malling such a statement, especially when I recollect that he was one of the members of the State Parliament of Queensland who, in the session before last, was loud in the advocacy of the remission of freights on produce to the western portion of the State.
-paterson.- That is a very different thing.
– I am sorry that I have not time to quote the honorable and learned member’s speech in order to show the extraordinary difference between his argument then and that which he has urged to-day. As the honorable member for Kennedy suggests to me, the drought is far more severe to-day than it has ever been previously. I have been twenty years in Queensland, and I never saw the country in such a state as it is in now. When I went round during the recent election I declare that from the time I left -Victoria until I came back I did not see one blade of grass in the whole of my travels throughout the western district of Queensland. But, of course, we Western Queenslanders expect this kind of treatment from Brisbane. We have suffered much already from the Government of which the honorable and learned member was a member. I can quite understand the Minister for Trade and Customs making the speech which he has just delivered. It was a typical protectionist speech. The meaning of it was - “ When every one is down, that is the time when these duties will begin to operate.’”’ The “protectionists do not want these duties in a normal season. It is when we are suffering as the Australian pastoral industry is suffering now that the duties are wanted, according to the protectionist argument. The honorable member for New England has given a very graphic account of the condition of affairs in his own district. If such a state of things exists there, what do honorable members expect is the condition of matters in Western Queensland 1 But this is the time when it is expected that the protective duties on fodder will begin to operate. They are of no value, as is, admitted, ill a normal season. This is the time when the protectionist argument is clinched.
– The honorable member must not refer to that matter.
– If there were a famine in some other country I dare say that the Minister for Trade and Customs would be one of the first to get up and advocate the remission of the rice duties if that would help the country affected. If there were a famine in India he would be one of the first to put his hand in his pocket and subscribe a £10 note. The Minister has said that the drought is purely local, but I can assure him that if he calls a drought in the whole territory of Queensland and New South Wales purely local, he is looking through a very funny pair of spectacles. Right from the Gulf of Carpentaria through the Northern Territory of South Australia the country was a couple of months ago one arid region. The drought has been more excessive in Queensland during the last year. Before, we had the coastal country to which we could bring sheep down from the western parts, and there depasture them. The State came to the assistance of the squatter, the selector, and the farmer, and brought down their stock at a reduced rate, charging only sufficient to defray the working expenses of the train, because it was a national disaster. A loss of sheep means a loss of wealth to the Commonwealth. A dead beast is not productive. It should be our aim to keep the country stocked up as much as possible. In Queensland, the drought is worse to-day than ever it was, simply because we have nowhere to take the sheep to. From one end to the other the State is drought-stricken. The cane crops are failing from want of rain. . No agriculture is going on. When I was in Queeusland - since the honorable member for Brisbane was there - I saw none of the green crops he talked about. I did not see a crop of wheat from the Darling Downs to the Border. The country was like the Sahara, and the further west one went the worse it was. What the honorable and learned member for Illawarra asks is not that the Minister for Trade and Customs should have the right to remit these duties. I should be one of the first to enter an emphatic protest against giving to the Minister any power in that direction. If Parliament in its wisdom can make laws surely it can unmake them. We ask for no special favour for an individual State. If, as the Minister put it, there is no drought in South Australia, Victoria, or Western Australia, the duties will not apply. It will apply to only those who are bringing in foodstuffs for their cattle. So that there can be no differential treatment between States if other States have plenty and ample feed they will not need to import. The honorable and learned member for Brisbane said that there is plenty of food-stuff in the north. Within the last two or three days I read in the Argus that large importations of fodder are going north in New South Wales and Queensland. How does that report in a newspaper tally with his statement about the forage being so cheap up there 1 I cannot understand how a mau who is engaged in pastoral pursuits can stand up and make such a statement. Another injustice which pastoralists suffer under is that as soon as a drought comes on up goes the freight on the ships. It went up as high as 30, 40 or 50 per cent, on the fodder which was being taken to the different ports in Queensland before it could be sent out to the western districts. We have another ring in Melbourne - in the Federal Parliament, for it is nothing more nor less than a ring - to starve the backbone of the Commonwealth. Every sheep and every beast we lose is a national loss. If the Government can see any way to assist the pastoral industry in the western districts - nay, in the whole territories of New South Wales and Queensland, it is their bounden duty to do so.
Mr. FULLER(Illawarra)- In reply.The speeches which have been made fully justify my action in bringing this most important question prominently before the House. The Minister for Trade and Customs, who spoke on behalf of the Government, said that there are other considerations besides that of sympathy. The Government have shown a very cold-blooded spirit this afternoon in regard to all the struggling people throughout Australia. In their speeches, the honorable members for Maranoa, Darling Downs, and New England have narrated to us a tale of woe and distress unequalled in the history of all Australia. And yet we are told by the Minister for Trade and Customs that when Parliament declares its will we ought to be very careful not to alter it. I submit to this House that Parliament has not declared its will in this matter. The Tariff is not the will of Parliament until it has passed through the Senate. Since the Tariff was enforced in the first instance by an executive act, I see no reason why the Minister cannot by, an executive act, suspend the operation of the fodder duties. If he would take that course he would earn the undying respect and admiration of everybody throughout Australia. Surely even those who may have a little lucerne in Queensland, or who may have some wheat in South Australia, are not so callous that they desire to get famine prices when they see others engaged in the great industries of the country wanting this food to keep their cattle from dying. The Minister said that the State Governments are the best able to deal with this difficulty. In New South Wales the Government have done everything they possibly could. They have remitted the rents of the lessees in the western districts, they are carrying the produce for starving stock and the stock itself at the lowest possible prices. The Minister for Trade and Customs says that the State Parliament could vote back every sixpence of duty. By what means or process would the money be voted back into the pockets of the people who paid the duties ? It is true that it finds its way to the State Treasury from the Federal Treasury, but by what means is it possible to refund the duties to the people who had to pay for the fodder? It is absolutely impossible. I do not believe the statement about the fodder being available in some parts of the country. The honorable member for New England was absolutely correct when he said that, with winter staring us in the face, there is not above a two months’ supply of food fodder in all Australia. In consequence of the want of rain, there is no chance of any agricultural produce being put in in very many parts of the country, and the outlook is very gloomy and depressing indeed. I would make this final appeal to the Minister on behalf of these people to find some means by which he can use his executive power, or, if necessary, bring in a Bill in order to alleviate the great distress arising out of this national calamity in Australia.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the Customs officials are collecting a duty of 20 per cent. on unset precious stones (such as agate, topaz, amethyst, greenstone, &c), although this House has decided that precious stones, unset, should be exempt from duty ?
– I find, with regret, that various practices obtain which will shortly be regulated.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The Postmaster-General is not aware ; but inquiry is being made.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
-The following answer has been supplied to the honorable member’s questions : -
The Government have asked for and received from a number of librarians and other gentlemen letters containing their views as to the principle and methods which should regulate the establishment of a Federal Library. These suggestions will be found most valuable when the time comes for collecting the books and other contents of a Federal Library. When the state of business permits, these letters will be fully considered by Cabinet, with a view to taking early action:
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether his attention has been called to statements appearing in the South Australian Advertiser of 22nd inst., that the Victorian Railways department are charging 50 per cent. additional railway freight on goods coming from South Australia into Victoria, and whether the Government propose to introduce any legislation this session to prevent such interference with the freedom of inter-State trade ?
– The matter is under consideration.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government contemplate the appointment of a Federal Statistician ? If so, when ?
-The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes ; but it may be necessary that legislation should precede the appointment.
In Committee -
Clause 3 -
Subject to the disqualifications hereafter set out, all adult persons -
Who are inhabitants of Australia and have resided therein for six months continuously, and ….
– I should like to have a clear statement in connexion with paragraph (a), regarding the question of residence. Great trouble has arisen in Queensland over the definition of the term “ residence.” The general impression is that if a person lives for a certain length of time in any one particular spot he must be considered to have resided in that district; but a number of varying decisions have been given upon this point, and great confusion has resulted. I know perfectly well that the difficulty which would occur under the State laws in the case of a person removing from one district to another would not arise under this measure, but some question might be raised as to what constitutes residence within the Commonwealth. It has been held in Queensland that because men live in tents they are not residents.
– The honorable member should defer the consideration of this point until we are dealing with the Electoral Bill. Paragraph (a) of this clause simply sets forth that if a man is an inhabitant of Australia, and has resided therein for six months continuously, he shall be entitled to a vote. It does not matter whether he lives in a house ora hollow log, or spends all his time on horseback, so long as he remains within the Commonwealth for a period of six months. The Electoral Bill provides for placing upon the roll the names of properly qualified persons, and in connexion with that provision the question of residence may very well be discussed. I know the cases which the honorable member for Kennedy has in his mind. We have had very similar difficulties in New South Wales. In some cases, men who were camped on the banks of the Murray applied to be placed upon the roll, and the question arose whether they could be considered residents of New South Wales, because they had other places of abode in the adjoining State. Any such question cannot arise under this Bill, and I do not see how the language of the Act could more clear] v express what is meant.
– I think the contention of the Minister is correct, and that the question of defining the residence which is to entitle a person to have his name entered upon the roll will have to be considered in connexion with the Electoral Bill. This clause simply provides that persons who have been inhabitants of Australia for six months continuously shall be entitled to vote, so that the definition of the word “residence” does not arise. In New South
Wales as well as in Queensland it has been frequently held by magistrates that a man was not a resident of a district unless he could prove that his permanent habitation was located there. It is the desire of honorable members generally, that so long as a man is qualified to vote by having been in Australia for six months it should not matter- whether he is always on the move, if he remains within the confines of his district for the requisite time. This, however, can be dealt with when the Electoral Bill comes before us.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I cannot agree with the Minister in his contention. The object of this Bill is to define the franchise for Australia, whereas in the State laws the electoral machinery and the franchise are dealt with in the one measure. According to this clause a person must be an inhabitant of Australia and have resided therein for six months. Unless he has resided in Australia for six months he cannot obtain the franchise, and therefore the six months’ residence condition must of necessity be within the franchise clause. The object of the Electoral Bill is to enable those who have the necessary qualification to have their names placed upon the roll, and those who inquire into the qualifications for applicants . will have to look back to this Bill. This Bill corresponds with the provisions in the Queensland law, which have caused more dissatisfaction than any other in their administration. Sometimes the aid of the Pull Court has been invoked to compel magistrates who have erred through ignorance of the law, or through unconscious bias, to carry out the law. The greatest number of cases arose in the western districts of Queensland over the question of residence. There, many men had certain localities t o which they repaired when they had done their work, but the magistrates held that that did not constitute residence in those localities, and the result was that very many men could not prove the qualification .of residence. The opinion of the late Mr. T. J. Byrnes, Attorney-General of Queensland, who was a man with truly libera] instincts, was invoked, and he defined the term “residence” in instructions issued to the police magistrates. Mr. Byrnes, in the memoranda he issued from the Crown Law Offices, ‘ wrote - “ Residence,” within the meaning of the Acts, is much more a question of fact, to be decided upon by the registration courts, than a question of law. To be a resident, a mau must be a real inhabitant. He must possess a home within the district - that is to say, “ a place of residence with a fixed purpose of remaining there, and not merely a residence for an occasional purpose, either of pleasure or of business.”
The question was what constituted residence in a district within the meaning of the Queensland statute. Many of the magistrates held that an elector had to dwell in one house the whole of the tim E ; and on that ground many men were deprived -of their votes. The Chief Justice of Queensland, in re Electoral Justices qf Barcoo, ex parte Collins, said -
The Act uses the term “residence” in the ordinary sense. If a man is wandering about the country, passing from one district to another, I suppose he would have no residence in any ; but if a man resides all the time in one district, it is not necessary that he should live in the same house, in the same room, or in the same tent. It is necessary for him to live in the district, and so long sis he resides there, he cannot be said to have left the district. I say that now, because there seems to have been a misunderstanding in the minds of the justices, and it may be that a similar misunderstanding exists in the minds of other justices.
– This clause includes all Australia.
– But the point raised is what is the meaning of the word “ residence.” If a man changes from place to place can he be said to be resident anywhere?’
– A definition is given in the judgment quoted.
– The full court did lay down a good definition, but I desire to show the possible danger of leaving the clause in so vague a form as it here appeal’s. I take it that the desire of the Government is that all qualified citizens shall have the franchise, and that nobody shall be excluded on account of any arbitrary rule laid clown by the persons who administer the Act. .To that end it is desirable that the AttorneyGeneral should, if possible, have the term “” residence “ so clearly defined as regards this Bill that there can be no mistake. The late Mr. Byrnes added to the opinion which I have already read -
It follows from the above that men wandering from station to station looking for work, without any fixed abode in the district, are not residents. On the other hand, a seaman, who litis his family home in, say, Brisbane, but whose calling bikes him away to Cooktown for certain periods, does not lose his qualification as a resident of Brisbane. Or, to take another case, a volunteer from
Gympie detained at Barcaldine, on military duty does not gain a claim for Barcaldine, nor does he lose his Gympie claim.
There are many men who, by reason of their peculiar avocations, have to move from place to place, and it is desirable that the word “ resided” should not be interpreted in such a way as to deprive these men of the franchise. Australian seamen who travel up and down the coast are affected : and if they have to move about while honestly earning their living by reason of that division of labour which the constitution of society requires, they ought not to be deprived of their votes. The whole question turns on the definition of “resided,” and that is why I mention the matter at this stage. It is true that the question also arises under clause 5, but it is necessary that we should clearly bear in mind what we are now doing, seeing that the desire of the House is to enfranchise every male and female honestly entitled to the privilege. The Chief Justice of Queensland, in the judgment to which I have already referred, says -
If a man is wandering about the country, passing from one district to another, 1 suppose he would have no residence in any.
And yet, as I understand, Ave desire such men to have vote3.
– Surely a man must be a resident of the Commonwealth if he is not out of the Commonwealth.
– A man may be a resident of the Commonwealth and yet will not be able to get the franchise until he is a resident of a district.
– We should do all we can to see that we do not accidentally take away the franchise from anybody whom we intend to invest with it. So far as this clause is concerned, I do not think there is any danger of disenfranchising any person, although the honorable member for Darling Downs has done good service in calling attention to the intricacies and dangers of the question. In my opinion, the clause does not provide that an elector must have resided in Australia for six months prior to the particular election, but that he must have been an inhabitant of Australia, and have resided here, at any time, for six months continuously. By clause 5, an elector is entitled to be on the rolls only for the district in which he resides ; but I do not think there is any danger there. In the Constitution the word “ resident “is used in speaking of the rights of residents in States, and there is no more difficulty, to my mind, in interpreting the word “ resided “ in the Bill, than in interpreting the word “ resident” in the Constitution.
– Would the word “ lived “ not be better 1
– “Lived” or “been” might be used - “ Any person who has been in Australia.” There can be no harm, and there may be a great deal of good in preventing any possible question arising ; but the main point to which I wish to call attention is that continuous residence for six months, once achieved, stands good for all time, and has not to be repeated before every election. That may or may not be the intention of the committee, but I call attention to the fact.
– If I understand sub-clause (c) aright there is no limitation as to the period during which an elector has to be on the roll before an election.
– That is provided for in the Electoral Bill.
– I cannot find any provision of the kind in the Electoral Bill. Under the Bill before us a person may register up to within a day of the election : and that offers a premium for the stuffing of rolls in the last week or ten days. Great facilities will also be offered for roll stuffing at by-elections, and the candidate with the most money will have the best opportunity of obtaining the advantage.
– It is not wise to discuss the Electoral Bill at this stage, and it is in that measure where the point arises which has been referred to by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. So far as I recollect, any person can get his name on the roll up to the issue of the writ. The question of residence will not arise as between State and State, because any one who has resided for six months in the Commonwealth can have his name put on any roll, although it cannot be put upon two. He has not to prove his continuous residence in his State or division.
– Is there a definition of the meaning of the word “ resided “ ?
– If honorable members have any doubt in their minds in regard to the use of the word “resided” in paragraph (a), I do not think there is any necessity to adhere to the word. Either of the words suggested by the honorable and learned member for Indi might be substituted for it, and when we come to clause 5, we can substitute the word “ lives “ for the word “resides,” as used there. The AttorneyGeneral thinks that the word “ lived “ is the better one to use in this clause, and I am prepared to move an amendment to that effect.
– I am inclined to think that the alteration will, make the matter clearer, but I would ask the Attorney-General whether it has not been ruled that the words “lived” and “ resided” are practically synonymous.
– Does the word “lived” simply mean “ existed?”
– That is all.
– Then I think it will be sufficient, for I hope that the days when dead men rolled up to vote have long since passed. I agree thoroughly with those honorable members who have pointed out that what we have to consider is the desirability of making our intention clear to the electoral registrars of the various districts.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).The Minister’s proposed alteration is very desirable, on the assumption that the committee is prepared to give the “ awful swagman “ - as the description goes - who wanders from place to place, a right to vote. The argument which, for many years, we , used to have repeated ad nauseam in Victoria, was that we should not give men, whose employment takes them from place to place, any right to vote, as they have no stake in the country. Assuming it to be the wish of the Government to give these men votes - and I am sure that it is - it is desirable that we should not use the word “ resided “ in a Bill which fixes the qualification for the franchise, because that word involves in some way a stated fixed abode. If we use the word “lived” our purpose will best be served. The Minister will have a little more difficulty in finding appropriate words when he comes to clause 5, but we can deal with that matter when we reach it.
– -I should like to emphasize the necessity of having something much clearer in regard to the question of residence than the words which appear in clauses 3 and 5 are. A very considerable number of persons have been disfranchised under the State laws owing to the difficulty of deciding whether or not they “ resided ‘”’ in a place. I have known men who never slept in a house for three years. They were carriers and slept in their waggons, but to all intents and purposes they “resided “ in a district. They were good mea, and no one wished to deprive them of the right to vote, yet owing to the way in which the ‘State law was administered, they were disfranchised, on the ground that they did not “reside” in the district. Hence I say that we ought to make our intention very clear. It used to be a matter of the greatest difficulty to get a man’s name on a roll ; and if a man did not carefully watch his vote, he would fmd when election day came round that his name had been struck off. In Victoria an officer charged with the duty of purifying the rolls would call at a man’s house, perhaps, on several occasions and find him absent. He would then report that the elector was not residing there, with the result that his name would be struck off the roll, when, as a matter of fact, the man was only away at his daily work. A great many men whom I represent, and who are capable of giving a very intelligent vote - otherwise I should not be here - have always experienced the greatest difficulty in getting their names on the rolls. I have known some of them to ride 50 miles in order to take out electors’ rights, and then their names have been struck off subsequently by the revision courts. Unless we make it clear that a man has simply to live in a district in order to have his name placed on the roll, and that the question of whether he sleeps in a different place night after night is not to be considered, many thousands of men will be disfranchised. The word “ resided “ will be interpreted, as it has been interpreted before, to mean a fixed place of abode. Married men experience less difficulty in this respect than do unmarried men, many of whom have in the course of their occupation to move about from place to place. But they are just as necessary to the carrying on of the industries of the world as are those who reside near factories in which they work, and can return tq their homes every night. The Electoral Bill, as well as this measure, should be made perfectly clear to the officials who have to administer our electoral laws. Unless we make a new departure, 34 is these officers will continue the mistakes of the past.
– I am very glad that the Minister has decided to substitute the word “lived” for the word “resided” in paragraph (a). If he knew the difficulty which has been experienced by men in getting their names on the rolls in Queensland, he would understand at once why we are so anxious about everything connected with the Franchise Bill. ‘ I have known men who were born in the town of Blackall, in my own electorate, at a time when it was the most distant centre of population in Western Queensland, to be deprived of the franchise simply because their occupations compelled them to lead a nomadic life. Others, like myself, who, on landing in the State, had the good fortune to settle down in one place, have been given the right to vote, while men who are natives of the soil have been deprived of it. I am pleased to see that it is the intention of the Government to enrol the name of every man and woman who is entitled to exercise the franchise. The thanks of our party are due to the honorable, and learned member for Darling Downs for his exposition of the disadvantages under which we have been labouring in Queensland up to the present time. In the town of Isisford, no fewer than 110 men had their names struck off the rolls at one fell swoop because of the interpretation given to the word “resided.” Every one of them was prepared to swear that he had resided in that particular district for the previous twelve months, but the magistrates disfranchised them all.
– We have had thousands disfranchised in Western Australia.
– I am referring only to what took place at one court. It was so palpable that an injustice had been done, that the A.W.U., an organization to which I am proud to belong, took the case up, and enough money was raised by public subscription to have it tested in the Supreme Court. The result was that we obtained the judgment which has been referred to by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. We want to make this law as clear as daylight. Every one knows how expensive it is to go to the Supreme Court in order to assert one’s claim to a vote. There are very few who would trouble about it, and it is this condition of affairs that has caused the State to drift as it has done. I am very pleased with the way in which the Minister has met us in dealing with this Bill, and I am certain that the Government intend to carry it out in the spirit of the Constitution.
– I am reluctant to delay the committee’s decision, but if this Bill is to be absolutely clear and leave no loophole for doubts that may operate against persons getting on the roll, then paragraph (a) should be amended. The use of the word “ inhabitants “ in this clause seems unnecessary.
– My honorable colleague is going to propose an alteration of that paragraph which will get rid of the word “inhabitants “ altogether. I presume that is what the honorable member refers to.
– Yes, I was going to suggest that the paragraph should read “ Who have lived in Australia for six months continuously.”
– That is practically what we propose to adopt.
– With regard to the point raised by the honorable and learned member for Indi, I should imagine that if a naturalized subject comes to Australia, and remains here for six months, and then goes away and comes back again, there should he no objection to his being entitled to a vote. 1 I would point out that the naturalization laws of the various States impose very harsh conditions upon those who desire to become subjects of the King. In Western Australia, for instance, naturalization in any of the other States is not recognised.
– That is the case in all the States, and the matter needs special legislation.
– I am satisfied if the Attorney-General will look into the question.
– I desire to place beyond all doubt the possibility of any misinterpretation of the word “adult.” As used in this clause, ‘the word has a perfectly distinct meaning, -but, nevertheless, it might be interpreted, as members of the legal profession know, in accordance with English -precedents, very strictly to the exclusion of women in all cases in which they are not expressly included. I think that, as used, it includes women both married and unmarried, but submit that we shall adopt a course free from any possible risk, and make the meaning of the clause indisputable, if we insert after the word “persons “ the words “ whether male or female, married or unmarried.” I am unable to think of any wider expression.
– “Of any sex or condition.”
– The words I have suggested are as ample as those suggested by my honorable and learned friend. The insertion of the words will help to put beyond all -question to those who run while they read what the intention of the Bill is.
Mr. -Crouch. - Will not a woman of IS be able to claim a vote as an .adult 1
– At Common Law an adult means a person 21 years ‘old. It is a matter which we can take into further consideration. I move -
That the words ‘ ‘ whether -male or female, married or unmarried,” be inserted after the word “persons,” line 2.
– After the decided vote which has been carried in this House in favour of giving the franchise to women, it is clear that we .shall to-day, whether for good or for evil, add 800,000 new voters to the voters’ roll, and without going into the merits or demerits of the proposal, I desire to say that I shall .not proceed with the amendment of which I have given notice.
Mr. WATSON (Bland). - I do not think the word “ adult “ is defined :as to age in the Electoral Bill. Whether it is necessary so to define it or not I do not know.
Amendment agreed to.
– I moVe-
That the words “ are inhabitants of Australia, and have resided therein,” after the word “ Who,” line 3, be omitted, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ have lived in. Australia.”
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - Would this -not be a good place in which to deal with the question of age ? It might be done ‘by adding to the words the Minister has suggested, the words “ and are of the full age of 21 years.”
– The AttorneyGeneral is considering whether the insertion of those words is necessary.
– As one who lias been busily engaged in the consideration of another Bill for some considerable time, I have not had time to :go carefully through this measure, and I rise to say that I shall take no part in the passage of it. Alterations in this Bill are now being proposed, the effect of which it is impossible for honorable members to discover in two or three minutes. Owing to the way in which the Bill is being rushed through, I decline to be responsible for any effects which may follow.
Amendment agreed to.
– I desire to point out that unless it is intended to alter clause 4, the effect of this .clause will be to give every aboriginal in Australia a vote if he chooses to .claim one.
– That is intended.
– I point out that there are some constituencies in which there are a large number of aboriginals who are in many cases the tied servants of station owners, and this proposal will put a good deal of control into the hands of those persons. I point out also that any Chinese born in Hong Kong or at Wai-hai-wei and any kanaka born in British New Guinea or in the Solomon Islands, which are British territory, will also be entitled to a vote under this clause if no alteration is made in clause 4. I venture to say with regard to the Chinese that, if they are here and want a vote, it will be very hard to prove that those claiming a vote were not born in Hong Kong or Wei-hai-wei, as our Victorian experience is that every Chinaman is born in that district which is most suitable to his purpose of getting admission to the State.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 -
No aboriginal native of Asia, Africa, or the Islands of the pacific, or person of the half-blood, shall be entitled to have his name placed on an electoral roll unless so entitled under section <tl of the Constitution.
– I intend to move an amendment in the second part of this clause. As worded, it does not exclude aboriginal natives of Australia, but I think it does exclude the kanakas, to whom the honorable member for Corio referred, because they are natives of an island of the Pacific.
– If they are natives of New Guinea or of the ;Solomon Islands, and the Commonwealth takes those .islands over, they will not be excluded.
– That is a matter to be further considered. We have not yet taken over New ‘Guinea, and before we do we may make other arrangements in respect to that. The clause would exclude persons of the half-blood, and I do not think *hat was intended. I understand that in Western Australia there are some 7,000 half-bloods 34 e 2
– Not at all. There are not 700.
– Their fathers must .have ‘been white. They would be disfranchised if this clause -were left as it stands. In addition to what I have said, I would direct .attention to .section 41 of the Constitution, which says-; -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous house of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either house of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Speaking subject to a legal interpretation, it seems to me, as a layman, that we could not prevent the aboriginals of New South Wales from voting, inasmuch as they can vote now. Many of them exercise the right in the Murray district. I believe many of them voted for the Chairman of Committees.
– They cannot vote if they have received relief from the Government. There is a special section of the New South Wales Act to that effect.
– But they do vote in New South Wales. I have seen them voting. I do not know whether some of the aboriginals may be disqualified, but, at any rate,- those who now have the right cannot, under the Constitution, have that right taken away from them.
– A number of the aboriginals in South Australia vote.
– I think they do, and, therefore, it is not right to attempt to take away the right from half-castes. I intend to move that the words “ or person of the half blood “ be omitted, and that the words “.except the islands .of New Zealand situated in .the Pacific .Ocean beyond the Commonwealth “ be inserted after the word “Pacific.”
– I want to submit for the consideration of the committee the question of whether it is a wise thing to enfranchise all the aboriginal inhabitants of Australia. In the more settled districts of the eastern coast, the matter is of little importance, because the number of aboriginals is few, and they are scattered. They have no appreciable effect upon the result of an .election, even if they do vote ; although I know that in one or two cases in New South Wales the blacks at the Government stations were manipulated by a candidate to his advantage in a very clever way indeed. But in NorthWestern Australia and Northern Queensland the matter assumes quite a different complexion. There are there thousands upon thousands of aboriginals. In some of the electorates they positively outnumber the white people. I understand that in one electorate of Western Australia there are according to an estimate 16,000 aboriginals, while the white population is considerably below that number. I have no objection in principle to an aboriginal, who, having qualified for the franchise takes an interest in electoral matters, exercising the vote on his own initiative. But what I am afraid -of is the state of things in Western Australia where, I understand, aboriginals are very largely indentured to squatters. They are practically the slaves of those squatters, and so much under their influence that even had they the knowledge requisite to enable them to express an opinion upon political affairs, they would not dare to attempt to exercise their votes in defiance of the wish of their masters, in the face of the gentlemen who will, of necessity - because there are no other white men available - constitute the poll-clerks and officials in that part of the country. In North Queensland, again, similar conditions prevail. There are a vast number of practically uncivilized blacks, who, I dare say, in many instances, could in sufficient numbers be brought in to turn the tide at an .election in the interests of those who had a fair amount of money to spend. It is well worthy of our consideration whether we should allow a number of people like these, without any proper knowledge of our politics, to come in and, by unfair and improper means, influence the return of two -or three members of this Parliament. So far as concerns those aboriginals who are already enfranchised, as the Minister says, we have no power to take the franchise from them. That is clear from the terms of the Constitution. I see no objection, either, to half-bloods voting. It is only where the aboriginals can be manipulated that there is an objection to the franchise being conferred upon them.
– The Minister is in error in saying that the kanakas can vote, because they are not naturalized, and are not British subjects.
– The question of naturalization is not within our control, because we have not yet passed any legislation on the subject. But the Queensland Government have or had the power to issue naturalization papers to kanakas. I have been told - I do not know whether there is any foundation for the statement - that a number of them are naturalized. There is nothing to prevent the issue of naturalization papers to a large number of kanakas between now and the time when the Commonwealth Parliament legislates on the subject of naturalization. That cannot be for six months, and may not be for twelve months I intend to vote against any proposal to enfranchise Chinese, kanakas, and other coloured people who are within the Commonwealth borders at present.
– Kanakas could not vote under this amendment.
– I shall oppose any proposal to give them a vote. because I think there is a great danger of an unscrupulous Ministry - if ,such a Ministry did exist in any of the States - issuing naturalization papers wholesale with a view of turning an election.
– They did it in Thursday Island, where there were 600 Japanese.
– That might be done; but Ave should not allow the possibility to occur. As I understand, the amendment proposed, the Minister seeks to exempt the residents of islands which are under the control of the Commonwealth ?
– New Guinea Will be one of our territories.
– That will be dealt
Avith when New Guinea is taken over. It is not a territory yet.
– We shall have to be careful that by the language Ave employ in this measure we do not unwittingly enfranchise the whole of the black inhabitants of
– Under our Acts Interpretation Act Ave make the term “ Australia “ cover all the territory within the bounds of the Commonwealth; and if New Guinea were embraced within the Commonwealth it would be covered by the proposed amendment.
– I am now speaking of the language that the Minister for Home Affairs proposes to employ in this clause. It will be operative so far as enfranchising individuals is concerned ; and if Ave say that the residents of every island under the control of the Commonwealth are entitled to be enfranchised, that will be done, whatever the Acts Interpretation Act may say. I should like to direct the attention of the Attorney-General to that aspect of the question* In any amendment which may have for its object the conferring of the franchise on the people of Lord Howe Island, or any other place within the dominions of the Commonwealth, we should not, it seems to me,” use such language as might give the franchise to the natives of New Guinea, or any other place that may be made a territory of the Commonwealth. I am inclined to the idea that it would be a wise tiling, either to debar all the aboriginals not now enfranchised - and therefore protected by section 41 of the Constitution - from the exercise of the franchise, or to insert some regulation to insure that they shall pass an educational test, or something of that description.
– This Bill is not the proper place for an amendment of that sort.
– If there is to be a qualification, it must be imposed in this Bill.
– It may be done in the Electoral Bill.
– I am inclined to the opinion that every person who under this Bill can claim enrolment, will have to be assured enrolment under the Electoral Bill. I do not care how it is done, but I want to prevent these savages and slaves - as they practically are - in the northern and western portions of Australia, from running the electorates in the districts in which they reside. There is a necessity for a provision for that purpose.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).Inasmuch as the aborigines of South Australia have the franchise, the intention of the Government is to force on Victoria the franchise for the aborigines. There are not very many aborigines in Victoria, and I understand that there are from 20,000 to 25,000 of them in Queensland.
– We must have the franchise uniform.
– I do not see that there is any need for uniformity in that respect. In the Constitution I cannot find anything which prescribes that because one State has given the franchise to aborigines it must be given in the other States. Section 41 is the only one that bears on the subject -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
All that section 30 says is, that until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualifications of electors of members shall be as prescribed in each State. Unless there is some provision which I hav.e overlooked, I cannot see that the committee is forced into the position of conceding a ridiculous franchise all round the Commonwealth for the mere reason that in some States it has been conferred. It is utterly inappropriate to grant the franchise to the aborigines, or ask them to exercise an intelligent vote. Inasmuch as all that we are constrained to do is to keep alive existing electoral rights in pursuance of section 41 of the Constitution, we should make clause 4 read in this way -
No aboriginal native of Australia, Asia, Africa, or the Islands of the Pacific shall be entitled to have his name placed on an electoral roll unless so entitled by section 41 of the Constitution.
I do not think that there is any constitutional obligation on the committee to provide for a uniform franchise for the aborigines. I move -
That the word “Australia” be inserted after the word “of,” line 1.
– The statement of the last speaker is that the Constitution does not compel us to concede the franchise to aborigines who do not already possess it. I gathered from his remarks that he is opposed to conceding the franchise any further than is absolutely necessary under the Constitution. If anything could tend to make the concession of female suffrage worse than it is in the minds of some people, it would be the giving of it to any of the numerous gins of the blackfellow. It cannot be claimed, I take it, that the aboriginal native is a person of very high intelligence, who would cast his vote with a proper sense of the responsibility that rests upon him. And it can even less be claimed that the gins would give a vote which would be intelligible.
– My experience is that the gins are more intelligent than the men. ‘
– Does the honorable member mean that the collective intelligence of half-a-dozen gins equals or surpasses the intelligence of one male? Because if so, it is not very much, and would not justify our giving half-a-dozen votes to six intelligences which, all lumped together, constitute only one very imperfect intelligence. I hope that we shall disfranchise the aboriginal wherever it is possible to be done, and reinstate the half-bloods.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE__ The effect of the provision in the Bill is to enfranchise the aborigines in those States- where they are not entitled to vote. Section 41 of the Constitution Act prohibits the taking away of an existing electoral right in a State. I have no objection to accepting the amendment, which, while it preserves existing rights, will prevent the franchise being given to a number of aborigines who are not, to say the least of it, of the highest intelligence.’
– I am sorry that the Government have decided to accept an amendment which places a stigma upon the race that held this continent long before white people came here. My constituency contains possibly more aboriginals than any other electoral division of the Commonwealth. I have seen large numbers of these unfortunate people, and I am free to admit that there is perhaps no lower type of humanity on this planet than the aboriginal of Western Australia. I believe also that it is impossible for the average aboriginal to understand any political question, or to vote with- intelligence. At the same time I do not think the first Australian National Parliament should place upon the statutebook a prohibition against the native races of the continent, and- a stigma upon their name. AVe could easily prevent these people from being enrolled, without leaving ourselves open to reproach, by providing in the Electoral Bill that no aboriginals shall be enrolled unless they are able to read, write, and understand the English language.
Mir. Higgins. - Would the honorable member have a more stringent law for black than for white people 1
– If the honorable and learned member will refer to the clauses in the Electoral Bill providing for claims, he will see that all applications must be made in a certain form, una that there is nothing to prevent us from requiring that the claims shall be signed in the presence of a resident magistrate, who shall certify that the applicants understand the English language.
– Would that not be a greater stigma than what I propose ?
– Surely not. To provide that aboriginals should be required to understand the English language before they can be placed upon the roll- surely involves less stigma than the’ passing of a prohibitory law directed against all aboriginals. It is reasonable- for us to provide that the aboriginals should not have a vote unless they understand our language and something about our institutions.
– ‘Even though they may be better educated than are some white persons 1
– But white persons are supposed to- sign their names to the form of application.
– ria applicant can make his mark - he need not sign his name:
– I think that we should provide for a signature in all cases. I do not think any honorable member would derive more benefit than I would from the prohibition proposed. I admit that it would be distinctly dangerous to allow the squatters of .the northern stations in Western Australia to muster up their niggers and drive them to the polling booths to vote. If, however, my suggestion is adopted it would be impossible for the aboriginals to be placed upon the roll en bloc, and, therefore, impossible for the squatters to do as described.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie forgets that we are conserving the existing rights of aboriginals. If any insult has been cast upon the aboriginal races, the State Legislatures are responsible. In Western Australia and in South Australia, the aboriginals have no votes.
– - In South Australia the aboriginals have a perfect right to the franchise and they exercise it.
– In Victoria the right to rote is not conferred upon aboriginals, and in Queensland they can vote only if the)’ are holders of property. Therefore what is now proposed cannot be construed as an insult. The present provision was inserted in the Bill for the sake « of uniformity, because in some cases a right exists which cannot be taken a-way, and it was thought better to make the same law applicable to the aboriginals throughout the Commonwealth.
– But the Bill proposes to deprive the aboriginals of ,the right to vote.
– No ; we are not depriving them of the right to vote. All those who have the right to vote will have it reserved to them. We saw some difficulty in the way of making the law uniform, because we knew there were a large number of wild blacks in the northern territory of South Australia, in northern Queensland, and in Western Australia, who could be half-tamed, so that they could be roped in, like a lot of wild horses, to have their names placed upon the roll. I do not think there can be any objection to adopting the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Northern Melbourne.
– I am glad that the Government are prepared to accept the amendment. I cannot follow the arguments adduced by the honorable member for Coolgardie, who objects to the stigma which he says will be placed upon the aboriginal races of the Commonwealth. The honorable member wishes to preclude the aboriginals from voting b7 inserting a provision in the Electoral Bill, which would involve as much stigma as that now proposed. It is not likely that many of the aboriginals will feel that any stigma has been placed upon them. The representatives of Western Australia have a very strong argument to urge in favour of the exclusion of aboriginals from the franchise. The representation of the States in this Chamber is based upon population, exclusive of aboriginals, but if the aboriginal population of Western Australia were included, that State would be entitled to an additional representative. It would be absurd to leave the aboriginals out of consideration in deciding the number of representatives to which the States are entitled, and yet to give them a vote in connexion with the election of the representatives allowed. To be logical we should amend the Constitution in order to allow representation to be based upon population, inclusive of aboriginals. With reference to the interjection I made when the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon was speaking, I desire to say that I spent a good many years in the back blocks of Western Australia, and came into contact with a great number of natives, and according to my experience the women are more intelligent and more humane than are the men. More than once I have almost owed my life to the humanity of black gins, who have indicated where water was to be found, when we were treated with the utmost surliness and hostility by the men. While it may bc admitted that in New
South Wales and Victoria the black vote is a negligible quantity, of no consequence one way or the other, it is a very serious matter in the northern parts of Western Australia, where the state of affairs is such that no democrat could for one moment tolerate the extension of the franchise to the aboriginals. Owing to the difficulties of identification, we should have no check on the number of times they might vote ; and in the case of a candidate who might have the hostility of the squatting element a great deal would depend on whether or not the aboriginals were allowed to vote. Under the circumstances, we ought to have no hesitation in excluding aboriginal Australians from the franchise.
– I quite agree with the amendment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. The observations made by the honorable member for Perth on the provision of the Constitution regarding aborginal natives is very much in point. Section 25 of the Constitution very distinctly provides that in reckoning the number of people in the Commonwealth, or in a State, aboriginal natives shall not be counted. If the court to determine the number of members to be returned by any State to this House is not to include aboriginal natives, it would be very inconsistent to provide that these people should have a voice hi the election of those members.
– The Convention never intended that aboriginals should vote.
– That is so, and the section I have quoted was, I think, an intimation that it was intended to exclude natives from participation in political power. I do not regard this provision as a stigma placed on the aboriginals by the first Parliament of Australia., seeing that in carrying this amendment we are only doing what has been done already by the respective States. If it is ever desired by one or more of the States to invest the aboriginals within their territory with the franchise for the more numerous State House, they will come under section 41 of the Constitution, which then gives them the right to vote for the Federal Parliament. But until aboriginals are thought worthy to vote for the State Parliaments, I do not see why we should consider them worthy to vote for the Federal Parliament. The aboriginals have
I not the intelligence, interest, or capacity to enable them to stand on the same platform with the rest of the people of Australia and determine complex political questions. How, for instance, would these blacks vote on the question of a white Australia ? I can imagine the difficulty of the honorable member for Coolgardie in persuading his coloured constituents to vote in the direction he desired. The complications presented are so numerous and difficult that we have no course left but to adopt the amendment.
Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - As an argument for including Australian aborigines within the provisions of this measure, we are told that we have taken their country from them. But it seems a poor sort of justice to recompense those people for the loss of their country by giving them votes. The argument ought not to weigh with the committee, as it seems to have weighed elsewhere.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).While we are not likely to admit aboriginals, as a whole, to participation in our legislation, I sincerely hope that we shall by no means deal in generalizations which will exclude all. There ought to be an educational test, and some discrimination exercised; and if that can be provided for, I have no objection to the clause with the amendment proposed. Above all things, we ought to hold up the franchise as a standard to which all the people may attain. To draw a “colour line,” and say that because a man’s face is black he therefore is not able to understand the principles of civilization, is misanthropic, inhumane, and unchristian. I am against the categorical imperativeasbeingtoo far-reaching, and as leaving no way of making provision foraboriginals who may rise above their “ birth’s invidious bar.” I ask the committee not to put a stigma on any class. These aboriginals belong to the genus homo, and we owe much to them. Let us exclude from the franchise those who do not choose to rise to the proper level, but not exclude aboriginals as a class. There is a parity in principle between this Bill and the Immigration Restriction Act, and in the latter measure an educational test is provided. I do not object to a man because of his colour, but because of his kind. If a man allows himself to become a slave, and to be unworthily used by others, I object to him.
– Does that description not apply to the aborigines?
– It does, but there is a nice way and a nasty way of doing the same thing. We ought not to categorically shut these men out from the privileges of citizenship, but, when they attain the proper standard, gladly admit them.
Question - That the word proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided -
Noes … … … 5
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “or person of the half blood “ be omitted.
That the words “except the islands of New Zealand, situate in the Pacific ocean, beyond the Commonwealth,” be inserted after the word “Pacific.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
No person shall be entitled -
Provided always that any senator or member of the House of Representatives shall, if he so desires, be entitled to have his name placed on and retained on the electoral roll for the electoral division in which he resided at the time of his election, instead of the electoral roll for the electoral division in which he resides.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the word “ resides,” line 4, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “lives.”
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).At first sight I thought that the amendment proposed would meet the objection that has been raised to the use of the word “ resides,” but, on looking more closely into the matter, I am afraid that it may not altogether do so. In clause 3 we provide that an adult person who is an inhabitant of Australia, and has been in the Commonwealth for six months, shall be entitled to vote at elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives. Therefore, he ought to be entitled to be on an electoral roll. In clause 5, however, we pass on to another proposition, and that is that -
No person shall be entitled (a) to have his name on the electoral roll for any electoral division except the division in which he lives.
The difficulty in regard to the wording of the paragraph is that it adds to a man’s qualification as an elector a condition in regard to his remaining in a certain division. If A happens to be employed on a boat trading between Bundaberg and Brisbane, and travelling from place to place, he ought to be able to have his name placed upon the electoral roll for a division, if he is a person who has been in the Commonwealth for six months. But the difficulty in his case is - and the same difficulty occurs in regard to shearers and others - that he travels from one place to another, having no permanent place of living, and that, under this clause, no person is entitled to have his name on the electoral rolls for any division except that in which he lives.
– We must have some provision of that kind if weare to have one man one vote.
– Clause 3 presupposes that every person shall have a right to vote, and shall not be deprived of it, even if he passes from place to place.
– This provision means that a man ought to vote where he resides.
– As a matter of fact, the Queensland electoral machinery is so framed that a man having a residential qualification can transfer his name to another roll on change of residence. We do not want a man to be disqualified by having questions put to him as to the place where he lives, when he comes to vote, in case he has had to move to another place just before an election.
– If a man’s name is on a roll he will have the right to vote.
– We want to make sure of that position. By reason of his occupation a man may not have any permanent residence. Shearers and others do not reside in any one locality. Many of them do a certain amount of work in one place, then return to their parent’s homes, and subsequently go to other places to carry on their work.
– They are provided for in the Electoral Bill.
– The objection might be taken at the Revision Court that a man did not live in the electorate for which he had been enrolled, and if that were upheld his name would be removed. The difficulty is that clause 3 provides the general qualification that an adult person shall be entitled to vote after six months’ stay in the Commonwealth, while under this clause we provide that once his name is placed on the electoral roll he shall be thrown back on a residential qualification in a particular district.
– Let us make sure that we are not doing that.
– Is not clause 5 really premature in this Bill?
– I think it is; but I do not want to throw any obstacles in the way, because the Bill has already passed the Senate. This Bill should only define the franchise. Matters relating to the way in which a man is to get his name on a roll are merely questions of machinery. I should like the committee to consider that phase of the question.
– It would be very difficult to carry out what the honorable and learned member desires. The difficulty to which he refers has occurred both in New South Wales and Queensland. On one occasion a number of men who were residing and working on the Victorian side of the Murray shifted their tents to the other side of the river, in order that they might be enrolled for a New South Wales electorate. In another case a railway camp was pitched on the borders of one electorate, but the men residing in it shifted it across the border in order that they might get on the roll for the adjoining electorate. It was in these circumstances that the question of a residential qualification caine up in New South Wales, and was finally determined, although I cannot say at the moment what was the decision arrived at. That really is the point which has been raised by the honorable and learned ment ber for Darling Downs. ‘ The difficulty applies equally to a man who is a teamster travelling on the western plains, as well as to shearers and a large number of men who have really no fixed residence. Our desire is to make provision for every man to get his name on the rolls, and . to take care that he shall not be deprived of any right when it has been placed there. The Electoral Bill makes provision for putting a man’s name on the rolls, and for the court before which he is to appeal-. It makes provision also for transfer from, one division to another.
– Would not clause 5 be better in another Bill 1
– I do not know that it could not be inserted in the Electoral Bill. It seems to me, however, that it can do no harm. If we strike out the word “ resides “ in paragraph («), and substitute the word “ lives,” that is the most we can do at the present time in order to carry out our desire. Once a man’s name is placed upon a roll it cannot be taken off, unless a successful objection is raised at the revision court. An elector can vote by post, and his name can be transferred from one roll to another, but it cannot appear on two rolls. I do not think we can do verv much more in this direction. It appears to me that the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has received some very severe shocks in Queensland, and because of that is rather supersensitive in this particular matter. We are doing our best to get over the difficulty.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has raised a point which deserves some attention. There is no doubt that, according to clause 3, no man and no woman can vote unless his or her name appears upon an electoral roll, and it must by some means be got there. Then, we find that under clause 5 no person can have his name upon an electoral roll except for the division in which he lives or resides. But a number of people are unable to say that they reside in any specific division. The difficulty is to get those people upon the roll, and the committee should be very careful that, in the- wording of these clauses, they are not deprived of the right to vote. In carrying out the < principle .of one man one vote, it is very important that a man should be obliged to vote where he resides, if he has a residence. I think, therefore, that the general rule should remain as prescribed in this clause, and that a man must be obliged to enrol himself in the division in which he resides. There are some exceptions, however, to the general rule, and honorable members must have known numerous cases in which men have felt a grievance, because they have been told that they had no right to vote in a particular division, on the ground that they did not reside there.
– I was disfranchised for several years in West Australia, when I was out prospecting.
– I think the word “ resides “ should be retained in the clause, and that we should insert after it some such words as these - “ or if he has no residence, in such division as he elects.” I propose that he should prove to the person who enrols him that he has no residence, before he is permitted to elect the division in which he shall be enrolled. It might be said that it would be a very curious thing if a man in the east of Queensland should elect to vote for a constituency in the far west : but the number of people wandering about in this way is very limited, and, moreover, such a man would have to vote in the division in which he had elected to be registered, and in that case would have to go to the west of Queensland in order to vote.
– Not if he could vote by post.
-We have not yet agreed to voting by post ; and I take it that in dealing with the Electoral Bill, we can make the clause providing for voting by post dovetail into this in such a way as to prevent any unfair action. I believe that the abuse of the privilege I suggest would not be veryextensive. I would not venture to propose the amendment in the face of Ministers’ disapproval, if they saw any practical difficulty in it, but it strikes me that what I suggest is the best way to get over the difficulty.
– What difference in efficacy is there alleged to be between the meaning of the word “ resides “ and the meaning of the word “ lives “?
Mi-. HIGGINS.- I should not say that there was any particular difference, but even if we alter the word “ resides “ to the word “ lives,” it will not meet the difficulty which the Minister for Home Affairs desires to meet.
– Does the honorable and learned member think there is a difference between the use of the word “resides” in this clause and its use in the earlier clause, in which the word “lives” was substituted for it?
– In the earlier clause we used the word “ live” as applied to Australia, and “to live in Australia” has a very different meaning from “ to reside in a particular division.” I say it is a wholesome thing, that we should insist in normal oases that a man should reside in the division for which he is enrolled.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that in this case the word “ resides “ can have the same application given to it as would be given in a County Court with reference to local jurisdiction, where a man may have two or three residences.
– I think -it quite possible for a man to have two or three residences, and he would then be able to comply with the first condition in the clause ; but under my proposal he would have to prove to the electoral officer that he had no residence, and if he did that he would be allowed to elect the division in which he would vote.’
– He must have no fixed habitation ?
– He must have no fixed habitation before, under my proposal, he would be allowed to elect the division in which he would vote. It will always be open for those who examine the rolls to show that he has a fixed habitation in some other division, and, having proved that, to have his name struck off the roll for the division which he elected.
– Would not that mean that a man might, according to what he thought the exigencies of the political situaation, attach himself to a particular electorate t
– I do not think that there would be any difficulty with these people who have no residence, because their number is very small. There is a number of men, such as shearers, seamen, and prospector’s, who feel it a grievance that they have not a vote because their occupations take them from place to place, and they have no fixed residence.
– Would not that be met by allowing them to vote outside the electorate for which they were enrolled?
– It is not a difficulty of voting that has to be met, but a difficulty of getting upon the roll. I desire to help the Government to get men upon the roll for the divisions in which their lares et penates are, but if they have no fixed residence, and can prove that to an electoral officer, I would allow them to elect where they would vote. No harm, I think, could be done under such a proposal if proper precautions were taken with regard to voting in a division or voting by post.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that a wider judicial interpretation would be given of the word “ lives “ than of the word “ resides”?
– I think so.
– The remarks, of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and the amendment he suggests, prove that this clause should not be in this Bill, and that it belongs to the Electoral Bill as a machinery Bill. I have no objection to paragraphs (a) and (c) if the Government think it necessary to keep them in this Bill ; but I do strongly object to paragraph. (6). I cannot conceive any Government putting a provision of that kind into the Bill unless in blank ignorance of the conditions which prevail in the interior portions of Australia. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said that the difficulty was in getting voters on the rolls, and not in getting them to vote, but if paragraph (&) is retained the difficulty undoubtedly will be in enabling men to vote. It is comparatively easy for most men to get upon a roll ; but in the back country of Australia, and especially of Western Australia, it is exceedingly difficult for a man to say that on the polling-day he will be in the division for which he is enrolled It should be well known to honorable members that there is a large number of men moving about in the back country from one gold-field to another, and from one shearing district to another, and if paragraph (b) is to stand, about 50 per cont. of the voters in my constituency will be disfranchised. I think it was very aptly said in another place that this was a Bill for the towns and settled districts.
The CHAIB.MAN. - I would ask the honorable member to defer his remarks upon that subject until we have dealt with the amendment now before the committee, which refers only to the word “ resides.”
– The reason this clause in its entirety was inserted in this Bil], not in the Electoral Bill, is that at the time the Bill was prepared it was considered that the Electoral Bill would not have a fair chance of passing this session, and that this Bill would pass. The Government have decided to pass the Electoral Bill this session, and there is, therefore, no reason why this clause in its entirety should be retained in this Bill. I propose, therefore, to withdraw the amendment I have moved, and to retain only paragraph (c) of the clause in this Bill. Then this troublesome question which honorable members have properly raised can be dealt with when we are considering the machinery Bill. I should prefer that for another reason. I do not want this Bill to be jeopardized, and if an extreme provision were inserted it might cause considerable discussion in another place, if not imperil the prospects of the measure. I should prefer to have the matter dealt with in the Electoral Bill, which is the proper place for it. Therefore I wish to withdraw the amendment which I have submitted, and after that I propose to strike out paragraphs (a) and (6) and the proviso to the clause. At present I ask for a withdrawal of the amendment.
– I agree with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne and others who have spoken, that we should do everything we can to give facilities to the inhabitants of Australia to record their votes. But I think the amendment proposed is open to the objection that it gives opportunities for manipulation. That is to say, if men who have no place of abode - of whom there are many thousands in the different States - can elect to cast their votes where they choose, and thus decide elections in one or more constituencies, a strong opportunity is given for organization and manipulation, especially when that is done immediately before an election. If any such amendment as that proposed is carried in the Electoral Bill, I hope there will be a limitation to preserve the purity of elections. At the same time, I quite agree that we should make an effort to give those the nature of whose occupation is nomadic, an opportunity to record their votes, so long as they do that honestly and fairly.
– What limitation would the honorable member suggest 1
– I have not been able since the amendment was before the committee to frame a limitation, but I suggest that Ministers, in considering the matter, should bear that point in mind, and endeavour to provide something that would meet the objection.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That paragraphs (a) and (lt), and the proviso be omitted.
Bill reported with amendments.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Barton) -
That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clause 3.
In Committee - (Recommittal.)
Clause 3. (Persons entitled to vote.)
– There seems to be some doubt as to the technical meaning of the term “adult persons.” We, therefore, propose to. strike out the word “ adult “ and insert after the word “persons” the words “ not under 21 years of age.” The clause will then read - “ Subject to the disqualifications hereafter set out, all persons not under -21 years of age.” I move -
That the word “adult” be omitted, and that after the word “persons” the following words be inserted - -“not under 21 years of age.”
Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Resolved (motion by Sir William Lyne) -
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.
Report agreed to.
Bill read the third time.
In Committee of Supply
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding £282,834 be granted to His Majesty for or towards the services of the year ending the 30th day of June, 1902.
This is a Bill to enable us to carry on until we can get an opportunity of dealing with the Estimates for the year. On this occasion I have to assure the committee that, with the exception of certain items to which I propose to call specific attention, the Bill is for the ordinary administration of the departments, and, as will be seen, it does not involve an excessive amount. The first item to which I wish to call attention is -
Expenses in connexion with the choosing of the site of the capital of the Commonwealth, £2,000.
Honorable members are aware that the Treasurer has a small advance voted to him on which he can work. I have had to use that advance pretty largely to provide for the carrying out of certain telegraph and telephonic works, which ultimately will have to be paid for out of loans, and I am anxious that some items such as those I mention here shall be taken off the Treasurer’s advance, because it will be some few weeks before we deal with the proposed loan. That is the object I have in view in putting this particular item and a few others on these estimates. They are items that do not ordinarily find a place in a Supply Bill. This can hardly be regarded as what we have been used to look upon as an ordinary Supply Bill. A Supply Bill, at all events in the State of “Victoria, was a measure by means of which the Treasurer said that he wanted £400,000, ‘ £500,000, or £600,000 to enable him to carry on, and he simply asked for the amount in a lump sum without details, such as are given here. But I have given these details full)’, in order that honorable members may have an opportunity of seeing exactly what we are asking for, and checking each particular item with the Estimates, so that they may know that we are not asking for more than a fair proportion of the year’s expenditure. Therefore, these items, although somewhat unusual, may fairly find a place in a Bill of the kind. The first is that in regard to the trip for inspecting the sites for the Commonwealth capital. The first trip cost something between £900 and £1,000, independent of the cost of railway travelling, the total cost of the two trips being estimated at £3,000. It will be remembered that last time we had a Bill of this kind before us some honorable members were anxious, for certain reasons, that the Treasurer should pay as quickly as possible the amount due to the various State railwayauthorities for the travelling of honorable members. AVe are asking for the amount necessary for that purpose in advance The sum is £9,500. This will cover the sums to be paid to the various States, and amounts which I have paid out of the Treasurer’s advance for steamer travelling, and similar expenses. We are also asking for £1,100 for-
Expenses of election in Tasmania to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives ; and also a sum of £550 for -
Expenses in Darling Downs, Queensland, election.
The four items I have mentioned total £13,150.
– Is the cost of the election in Tasmania debited against Tasmania or against the Commonwealth ?
– The expenses are paid for by the Commonwealth pro rata. I wish to call special attention to one other matter. Under the department of Home Affairs, there is this item -
Administrative staff, subdivision .1, salaries, £240.
Some months ago, when we were dealing with a Supply Bill, objection was taken in Committee of Supply to certain appointments which had been made from outside the service of the Commonwealth or of the States. Considerable discussion took place with regard to the matter, and I then promised the committee that I would not pay out of Supply granted by the committee any sums by way of salary to any person in the employ of the Commonwealth who had not previously been in the employment of the Commonwealth or of a State. In order that I might be able to keep a check on the matter, it was arranged with the Prime Minister and Ministers that any appointment from outside the service should be submitted to the Prime Minister, who would look into the matter, which was then to be sent on to me so that I might know exactly what was being done, and might, if I thought fit, raise an objection to it. I am sorry to say that in this particular item is contained a portion of the salary of a person who has been appointed from outside the Public Service to the department of my honorable colleague the Minister for Home Affairs. The necessary paper was forwarded by the Minister to the office of the Prime Minister, and by some inadvertence there, apparently, it was allowed to pass through the Executive without having been forwarded on to me for my consideration. The officer has been appointed by Order in Council. He was for six or seven months in the temporary employment of the department, and his salary is £200 or £250. I wish to relieve myself of the promise I made to the House that no amount would be paid out of Supply for any new appointment until it had had an opportunity of discussing the matter. I mention the case now, so that my honorable colleague may be able to place all the circumstances before honorable members, and they may then have an opportunity of discussing the matter. With these exceptions, I can give my assurance, as usual, to honorable members, that I have checked the items, and that they do not exhaust the votes which are on the Estimates. They leave a portion of those votes still open for discussion by honorable members, and they appear to me ‘to be required for the ordinary administration of the departments.
– I think, as usual, we may take the assurance of the Treasurer that the schedule contains nothing outside the ordinary expenditure for the month, except the particular item to which he has referred. It is not of much advantage to us to have this apparently candid exhibition of details, because we are not going, at this time of the night, to compare item .by item with the original Estimates so that we may be perfectly sure that he has done nothing to deceive us. I am perfectly satisfied with his statement, and I only hope that his colleague, in view of the possibility of the defeat of the ‘Government, may be able to explain the very important expenditure of £240.
– As. this ‘matter has been so pointedly referred to by the Treasurer, I suppose on this occasion I am a culprit, but I absolutely refuse to be compelled, if I know a person who I think should be appointed, to >confine my selection to the public servants., who, it seems to me, wish to dominate everything in connexion with appointments. The larger number of the appointments should and will come from the public service; but that a Minister is not to make a small appointment - an appointment at £100 or £200 a yeN - when he knows or finds some one who is qualified for the position, who -was temporarily employed for six or seven months, did his work well, and proved himself to be a really good officer, is absurd.
– What was be doing 1
– He was placed in the accountant’s branch, at a transition stage, when we did not know exactly how much work was to be done. He did his work very well indeed, and was recommended very strongly by the UnderSecretary for an appointment.
– Every Minister fills his staff from outside.
– I believe it is the only case where I have permanently appointed an outside man. There are -two others which I am going to deal <with in the future - a paltry appointment at £60 or £70., and another at .£100.
– Permanent appointments?
– Yes. They will come under the Public Service Act. In the .case to which reference has been made by the Treasurer, the gentleman proved himself to be a good officer when he was temporarily .employed. The course I ‘take is to refer the matter to the Prime Minister and no other Minister, and if the Prime Minister passes it through .the Executive that is enough for me. My head office -contains seven officers permanently .appointed and seven officers temporarily appointed, and all taken from the various State services. The seven temporary appointments I have made to test what the men aire luke, and as far as I can judge they will all be permanently appointed, but every one.of them was taken from a State service. I feel that it is wrong at this stage to prevent a Minister or the Government from going outside to fill a paltry office. 3”. do not .care to hold the position if I am to be precluded from doing a simple thing like that. The .civil servants should be considered in every possible way, and I think I have done that by taking emery officer -except this one and another one who will be .appointed in a few days at about £100 a year from a State service. I am ,a very strong believer in adhering to the civil service, and especially to that of the ‘Commonwealth. I do not think that the -State services should be drawn .upon .on adi occasions. I could point to .one or two cases where the positions of State servants who -had been taken by the Commonwealth were filled -by appointments from outside. I do not think the Commonwealth should take State servants for that purpose. The proper course, if it .can be done, as for -a State .to reduce its service when a -Commonwealth officer is taken -f rom its ranks, not to make a vacancy to be filled by an outside appointment. In anticipation of the passing of the Public Service Bill, and also the Electoral Bill, a number of persons have been to see me in connexion with temporary or permanent appointments. There are about 60 or 70 men, who, in consequence of the Postal department being taken over, are not appointed permanently, but in almost every case new appointees will be drawn from the ranks of the ‘Commonwealth service. If an appointment is to be made from outside the public service it may be as well done by the Commonwealth as by the States. I do not think there should be an absolute dictation by the public servants that we must not .go outside the service. When the Public Service Bill is brought into operation the officers can come in in only one way.
– What about the obligation entered into by the Treasurer that these appointments would not be made ?
– I did not understand that my right honorable colleague had made a statement in those terms on behalf of all the members of the Ministry. I should certainly have referred to the matter before if I had known that a statement of that kind had been made binding upon all the members of the Ministry. It seems that I have committed the heinous offence of permanently appointing a temporary officer who for six or seven months did good work, and whom I am not going to dismiss.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth). - I do not think it was necessary for the Minister for Home Affairs to labour this matter as he did. There was a principle laid down - and wa must trust to the Executive to carry it out honorably - that in nearly all cases the public service of the States and the public service of the Commonwealth shall be exhausted before any outside appointments are made. But pending the appointment of the Public Service Commissioner and the enactment of the Public Service Bill, I do not think the committee desires to make any absolute , rule as to minor appointments .of a temporary character. We must leave a certain amount of latitude to the Executive. These blue >ribbon appointments are considered by the ‘Committee to be the reward ‘Of talent amongst the public servants ‘of Australia, and the idea is that, ‘unless there are some exceptional duties, which require for their performance exceptional talent which .cannot be found in the service, the Ministry will not go outside the service. I do not think the House desires, at any rate before the Public Service Bill is properly inaugurated, that some particular machinery should be exercised to bring out of one State .©r another a man to fill a temporary position. I feel, although some honorable members may not agree with me, that there is a dignity and a responsibility about the Executive Government. While I think that the rule laid down by the House should, in nearly every case, be adhered to, I do not feel that I could pass any extreme censure on the appointment of a very subordinate officer. We ought not to magnify this matter too much, so long as we are satisfied that the Government are adhering generally to the principle laid down.
– I do not wish to take up time unnecessarily on this question, but simply to make my position clear to the committee. There is no doubt that the Treasurer did make some such statement as he has indicated on a previous Supply Bill ; and, further, it is certain that but for a pure mischance in my office there would have been an opportunity for considering this matter further before anything was done. Now that it has been done, however, I do not think the Ministry is called upon for any defence. Some suggestion was made -at a very early period of the session, that all vacancies should be filled up either from the Commonwealth service or from the State services, and a large number of honorable members thought that that was a good idea.
– If the men were suit” able.
– Yes. When vacancies have occurred in .my department I have obtained information from the departments of the Commonwealth, and from those of the States - failing satisfactory results from the departments .of the Commonwealth - with a view to seeing whether I could £11 them up from those sources ; but honorable members will recollect that at the time in question I said on behalf of the Government that I declined to be bound by any such .rule as a rigid regulation. I do not .consider such a rule should be binding upon the Government, because administration is for the Government, .and responsibility should be assumed by it too, and it is for Parliament to condemn the Government if it does wrong. Government can never satisfactorily be carried on if it is supposed to be conducted under regulations formulated by Parliament beforehand. There is no meaning in the words “Ministerial responsibility,” unless they signify a degree of freedom of action, subject to control by Parliament only when that freedom is improperly exercised. That expresses the whole principle of Ministerial responsibility, except in cases where matters are specially regulated by statute. The Public Service Bill limits Ministerial power and responsibility, and that law, of course, will have to be conformed to. In the meantime I have always objected to its being considered that in cases of emergency, or in. cases of clear, reasonable, and right appointments the Ministry, without being subject to the provisions of a Public Service Act, should nevertheless behave as if such an Act were in existence. While the Public Service Bill and the regulations and rules under it are mere words, I hold that we are at liberty to do anything subject to our responsibility to Parliament. We are perfectly willing to accept that position, and nothing has been done in this case which will call for the slightest condemnation from Parliament. I wish to bring honorable members’ memories back to the time when I declined to be bound absolutely by an invariable and inflexible rule, as there might be cases in which it would be desirable to depart from it, and, because that rule has been departed from now, the Minister for Home Affairs need not consider himself in any sense to blame, or subject to the rebuke of Parliament.
– I think the Treasurer has done perfectly right in bringing this matter candidly before the committee. The position seems to be this : In the first place it was suggested by honorable members at a previous stage that as far as possible, and where suitable men could be obtained, appointments should be made from the State services, or from the departments which the Commonwealth had taken over. There was an excellent reason for that. We are establishing a new government, and if, A. in making our appointments, we select all ‘our highly- paid officers from outside the State services, we shall be adding to the cost of government, and shall not be relieving the States by taking over their highly-paid officials and leaving them to fill up the vacancies from the lower ranks of the service. That is one aspect only. As he has stated, the Prime Minister did say that ‘he could not be absolutely bound to make selections from the State or Commonwealth services, because he might find it necessary and desirable to bring in new blood from outside ; but that has nothing to do with the point raised by the Treasurer. When objection was taken to permanent appointments being made before the Public Service Bill came into operation, it was understood, as the Treasurer has very properly said, that before permanent appointments were made, the House should have an opportunity of deciding whether it approved before providing the money necessary for the payment of the salaries. I think that that is a correct interpretation of what the Treasurer said before, and of what he said this evening. The Prime Minister is wrong to the extent that he confuses the two issues. He stated that the Ministry were responsible to Parliament for their actions. But a promise was made that Parliament should be consulted before permanent appointments were made, and the Ministry is responsible to Parliament for the fulfilment of that promise. It was this that rendered it necessary for the Treasurer to perform’ the disagreeable task he has had to discharge this evening”. I think that his feeling was justifiable, and that the committtee ought to support him in his action. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon this particular appointment. Fortunately the Minister for Home Affairs has not mentioned the officer’s name, and I do not know it, and am therefore able to discuss the matter without any personal feeling. There is very good reason why Parliament should declare that it is undesirable to make permanent appointments before the Public Service Commissioner is able to take charge of the organization of the service, and as the temporary employment of any person can be continued—-
– No. If a man has held a temporary position for twelve months he will lose it on the appointment of the commissioner.
– He will not lose his position if the Public Service Commissioner re-appoints him.
– The commissioner cannot do it.
– Does the Minister say that the Public Service Commissioner has to go back to a time before the Bill becomes law in calculating temporary service ?
– Yes. If an officer holds a temporary appointment when the Public Service Bill comes into operation, he will lose his position, and will not be eligible for appointment as a permanent officer. If it were desired to appoint him to a permanent position, he would have to start at the lowest salary of £40 or £60 per annum, because there is only one way of entering the service, unless the circumstances are very exceptional.
– I very much doubt the correctness of the Minister’s interpretation.
– There is nothing to prevent the commissioner from appointing whom he likes to begin with.
– I wish it were so.
– I cannot remember any provision such as the Minister describes, find if he has acted under the idea he has expressed, I feel sure that he has made an entire mistake.
– I am sure I have not.
– If the position were as the Minister states, all temporary officers, except such as might have been selected by Ministers, for reasons good or bad, and appointed to permanent positions, would lose their positions when the Public Service Bill came into operation. I think the Minister is wrong, and that the periods for which temporary officers can be employed will date from the commencement of the Act. Does the Minister say that every temporary officer in the service must retire when the commissioner assumes control ?
– What I say is that they cannot be made permanent officers.
– Would they remain as temporary officers ?
– I am not quite sure whether they could remain even as temporary officers.
– I cannot see how men who are not in the service, can be appointed by the commissioner, whilst mcn who have acted as temporary officers, cannot be appointed by him. A temporary officer might technically have to resign his position, but apart from that he would be as eligible for appointment as would any other person.
– Not in this particular case, because the officer was not in cither the State or the Commonwealth service. 34 f
– Clause 31 of the Public Service Bill provides that -
If at any time in any special case it appears expedient or desirable in the interests of the public service to appoint to the Administrative Division or Professional Division some person who is not in the public service, the GovernorGeneral may on the recommendation of the commissioner upon a report from the permanent head appoint such person accordingly without either examination or probation, and also, if he think fit, without requiring compliance with the provisions of Part IV. of this Act.
– That relates to entirely new appointments which are made from outside the State or Commonwealth services.
– I am perfectly sure that it was never intended to make any provision that would prevent an officer in> temporary employment at the time of theappointment of the commissioner from., being continued in that employment as a . permanent official.
– I think that . clause 9 was intended originally to give the commissioner the fullest power as. to grading, and matters of that sort.
– If that is the law, we - - are giving an opportunity for very undesirable selection by Ministers. Certain officers; are neglected, although they are perhaps doing their duty faithfully, while others are . selected for permanent appointments. The Minister for Home Affairs said that he was not going to be got bound by any provision or promise. . ,
– I did not say that.
– I understood the Minister to say that he would not be limited’ in his appointments by any promise. If”’ Ministers choose to so far rid themselves of” responsibility as to make such a promise to ,. Parliament, then the action of the Treasurer is a proper, and that of the Minister for Home Affairs an improper, one. There may - possibly have been a mistake, and I am not. saying that the appointment has been madefrom improper motives. But the Treasureris right in bringing this matter before the committee, and we should be wrong if we did not insist on having the promise fulfilled, and on seeing that Ministers should not declare, as I understood the Minister for Home Affairs to declare, that they will act in’ defiance of an understanding arrived at.
– Amongst the contingencies there is a sum of £100, which I am told includes two sums to be voted to two members of the Senate for acting as Chairman of Committees. ‘
– Those sums will not be paid until they have been submitted to Parliament. They are in the arrears vote, and will not pass under this vote.
– The committee is entitled to some explanation of the £2,000,’ which appears as the expenses of the senatorial trip to the Federal sites. Do I understand that the £2,000 is to cover the whole expense of future trips ?
– I have al-‘ ready said that I am anxious to relieve the Treasurer’s advance account of as many items as I can, because strong claims have been made on me for money for works, such as telephone and telegraph construction, which,* ultimately, will have to be paid for out of loan. I have to finance these works out of the small amount granted to the Treasurer as an advance, which he has to use according to his judgment, subject to the ultimate approval of Parliament. These several items, amounting to £.11,000 or £12,000, are charges against the advance account which I am anxious to clear, so as to allow myself more money to spend. There is £3,000 on the Estimates for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the trips to the Federal sites, and that amount, I am told by the department, is not likely to be exceeded.
– How much was spent iu connexion with the senatorial trip?
– The accounts have not yet passed through my hands, but I am informed by my colleague that between £900 and £1,000 will probably be sufficient. That amount is exclusive of charges which may be made by the Governments of Victoria and New South Wales for railway accommodation. I do not know what these railway charges may amount to, but I should sa3r that in all probability they -will nOt be ‘made.
– I understand that thirteen members of the Senate took part in the trip, so that the cost was about £100 a man. If that be so, there must have been mismanagement somewhere.
– There would be more than thirteen senators-altogether.
– I have been told by those who took part, that on an average there were only about thirteen senators throughout the trip. I am further informed, however, that a large number of magnates at the different centres boarded the train, and did pretty well as they liked throughout the trip. If the next trip is to be bungled and mismanaged in the same wa)*, it would be to the interests of the Commonwealth if it did not take place at all.
– Abandon the trip.
– If we are to have similar mismanagement, it would be better to abandon the trip, and let any member who so desires, to go and collect information on his own account. The senators were away only some fourteen days, and I certainly think that £100 a man was gross extravagance. I should like to know how the money was spent.
– I object to this visit to the federal sites being described as a “ trip.” If a visit be paid to the federal sites by members of this House during the -next two or three weeks, very few will go, and a second trip will have to be organized. So far from being a “ trip,” or a “pic-nic,” a visit to the federal sites means hard work, dust, colds, bad beds, and other discomforts. I am not going on the proposed visit, and I can name a score- of my fellow-members who would not think of undertaking the journey at this time of year, notwithstanding the pressure which has been brought to bear on us. It will mean bad colds, and possibly a few deaths, and we- have ‘no desire to cause vacancies in our constituencies.
– We are not going.
– The honorable member for Tasmania is a robust man - judging from the hair on his head, he is a giant, full of vitality - and yet he objects to start. Let Ministers stop this humbug of saying that the proposed trip is to take place. ‘It is not going to take place, or, if -it does, there will have to be arrangements made for a second visit, whether the cost be £100 a day or £100 a week. If the Government wish us ‘to vote for the best site for the Commonwealth capital, they will have to arrange a trip for those who stay behind on the present occasion.
Mr. O’MALLEY (Tasmania). - I hope the item will be struck out as an outrage on democracy. A good deal of the money must have been spent for “ guzzle,” or, if not in that direction, it must have been gone in carrying local politicians around the country. This amount could never have been spent on thirteen senators.
– Representatives of the press accompanied the senators.
– How many pressmen were there?
– About twenty I should think.
– Then the senators took twenty pressmen and all the local politicians along the road ; and now it appears that the cab fares have not yet been paid. We struck out a vote of £2,000 for a .Bisley team, and we must stop the kind of business involved in the item under discussion. Only three or four members of this House will take part in the visit next week.
– Nonsense ! Thirty or forty members will take part.
– Would it not be better to give each honorable member a £10- note and send him away “ on his own “ ? As nearly as I can make out, nine members propose to take part in the proposed visit, and I undertake to say that half of them will stop at Orange, and that the most important site of all, Bombala, will not be reached.
– They do not want to see Bombala at this time of the year.
– Why not ? If honorable members do not visit Bombala it will be taking undue advantage of the Government whip. I hope the Common-wealth will put down its heavy boot and stop this extravagance. This Government is none too rich, and it is wrong to have a bill like this brought against the country.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, is talking a lot of arrant nonsense.
Mi’- G. B. Edwards. - Surely he is not to be taken seriously.
– The honorable member requires to be taken serious!)’, because people outside may get the impression that there is extravagant expenditure if such statements as have been made are allowed to go without- contradiction. Taking all the ‘circumstances in to consideration I do not think the expenditure has been extravagant. The Treasurer said that it would amount to about £1,300.
– I said that it would amount to about £900 or £1,000, apart from the cost of railway travelling. 34 v z
– I am convinced that the Government of New South Wales will not make any charge.
– The Commissioners have sent in their bill.
– I am satisfied that the -State Government will -not make any charge on the Commonwealth. The cost does not relate solely to the provisioning of the senators who took part in the inspection ; a large sum had to be spent in engaging coaches and other vehicles. The cost of conveying a party of 30 or 40 by coach, especially where vehicles are not readily obtainable, must necessarily be considerable. The party had to travel by coach over the long stretch of country between Bombala and Eden, as well as from Cooma to Bombala, the journey through that district occupying three or four days. At every site coaches and other vehicles had to be engaged to enable the visitors to have an opportunity of inspecting the country. I accompanied the party as far as Wagga, which is in my own electorate, and at that town there were some fifteen senators. Later on, I believe, other members of the Senate joined the party, and there was also a considerable number of representatives of the press. Parliament could hardly refuse to allow members of the press to accompany the party so that -the public might be kept informed of what was taking place, and of any impressions as to the suitability or otherwise of the various sites.
– Roughly speaking, how many were there in-the party 1
– When I left them at. Wagga there were. about 30, but I believe that others joined them later on.
Mr. (Poynton. - While others fell out.
– Towards the close of the trip the party was much larger than at the commencement.
– On the basis of the cost of the Senate’s trip, what does the honorable member think it will cost to convey the members of this House to the various sites ?
– From the statement made by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, it would appear that very few honorable members purpose joining in the inspection. I understand, however, that some 30 have already given in their names. The ‘honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, will readily I see that the expenditure involved is not in direct ratio to the number of the party. It costs less per head to convey a large party to the sites than to take a small one, and it is quite possible that a number of newspapers -will not desire to be represented on the occasion of the inspection by honorable members of this House, in view of the fact that they described the sites extensively on the last occasion.
– They are all going in for economy now, so that they would hardly send many representatives.
– Quite so. It is the absolute duty of honorable members to make themselves acquainted with the general configuration of the various sites. If they do not do so, they should have no right to vote upon the question of the selection when it comes up for decision. It is practically useless for an honorable member to pretend that after looking at a printed report he is fit to pronounce judgment on the selection of a site for what is to be the federal capital for all time.
– The Government have no right to ask honorable members to set out on this trip at the end of the session, when they are all crippled.
– The genial climate of New South Wales at this time of the year will set the cripples on their feet again, and the honorable member might go with safety. A moderate expenditure upon a trip of this kind is certainly justifiable, and I am satisfied that it will not be resented by any citizen of the Commonwealth. I should like those who rail against the amount that has been spent to remember that it involves a considerable cost to hurriedly convey a large party over country where vehicles are necessary. The owners of these vehicles cannot be expected to place them at our disposal for nothing. In many cases they have to bring them long distances, and to have them in readiness for some time before they are required.
– What is a fair amount to provide for the inspection by the House of Representatives t
– That is a very difficult thing to estimate, but, in view of the time which was occupied by members of the Senate in visiting the sites - they were away for something like a fortnight - I do not think that £1,000 is extravagant.
– On the basis of the cost of the inspection by members of another place, the coming trip will cost £5,000 or £6,000.
– The honorable member is altogether in error. The expenditure will not amount to anything like that sum. If the cost does not exceed £1,000 or £1, 500, 1 think the visit will have been carried out very cheaply, and no one will have any right to complain.
– I agree with the honorable member for Bland that it is only reasonable that a moderate expenditure should be allowed for the purpose of the inspection of the capital sites. There is no doubt that it is a work which will have to be done very carefully, but I do not agree with the honorable member that the inspection made by members of another place was conducted at a reasonable cost, considering the number of senators who took part in it. We cannot recall what has passed, but I hope that the Government will adopt a different course in the future. I think it was utter nonsense in the first place for members of the Senate to inspect something like three or four times the number of sites that have any possible chance of selection. The number might well be narrowed down to four or six. There are many places which, by reason of their geographical position, have no possibility of selection.
– It is a matter of opinion which are those places.
– We want, a fairly central site.
– Will the honorable member name one which has no chance of being selected ?
– All but those which are centrally situated are out of it. The Government should take the responsibility of narrowing down the number of the sites to be visited to five or six. Then a thorough inspection could be made at a moderate cost. For my own part I shall not be a party to any expenditure of this kind. I shall prefer, when it is all over, to pay my own expenses, and to narrow down the field of inspection rather than go round looking at a number of sites which I know will have no chance of selection. The Government could well defend their action if they cut out a number of sites from the proposed inspection. Honorable members representing all these places like to tell their constituents that they have induced the Government to inspect them, but if honorable members are to go round with some 30 or 40 press men at a cost of something like £80 or £100 per day it will be rather a serious matter. Constituents cannot hold honorable members responsible for their failure to induce the Government to inspect sites which they know can have no chance of being selected. £3,000 should not be lightly thrown away. We should remember that it is not our own money, and we should be just as careful with the taxpayers’ money as if it were our own.
– If my honorable colleague, Mr. O’Malley, were really serious in his remarks, which I can hardly believe, I can only suppose that he was talking over the heads of the committee to his constituents. He was showing them how bent on economy he is ; how keen he is about keeping down expenditure. Fortunately, my record in Tasmania is such that I am never likely to be charged with extravagance there. The people of Tasmania know my economical turn j they know what I have done in the way of cutting down expenditure, and, therefore, when I say that I shall support the setting apart of any reasonable sum.for this purpose, I am sure that Tasmania will place most implicit confidence in the propriety of the vote I give. I recognise, as
Ave all must recognise, the immense importance of the inspection of the proposed sites for the federal capital by honorable members of this House.
– No one disputes that ; it is the cost that we are discussing.
– I am not sure they do not dispute the importance of the inspection.
Mi”. Barton. - A great many people do not want it to take place.
– To my mind, an effort is being made at the present moment to prevent the inspection taking place this session. I am entirely against that.
– Is there any reason for inspecting sites to the north of Sydney, when four of the States lie practically to the south of ib “?
– I am not going into that question. I do not think it is necessary to inspect an unnecessarily large number of sites, or to be extravagant in the expenditure which must result from this trip. But if this Parliament, as a whole. is to keep faith with the people, it is essential that the inspection should be made this session, so that after it has taken place the commission of independent experts which is to be appointed may bring down a report to be considered by honorable members next session, in the full light of the personal experience they have gained.
– And then have some more inspections ?
– No: the opportunity is offered now, and any honorable member who does not avail himself of this chance to inspect the sites, ought to accept the verdict of those who go to the trouble of making the trip, and come back armed with information.
– They are more likely to take the verdict of the experts.
– They will be in a better position to consider the verdict of the experts after they have inspected the sites themselves.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister for Home Affairs). - I must thank the right honorable member for Tasmania, for the statement he has made, because I believe he has taken the correct view of this matter. The view I took from the outset Avas that before the Government could materially reduce the number of sites proposed, it would be we for members of the Federal Parliament who have to deal Avith the question to inspect those sites. Any honorable member who had an opportunity of being with the members of the Senate when on their visit of inspection, must have come to the conclusion that that view is correct. I Avas Avith them for a part of their tour, and I was very much surprised to find how A’ery little many of them knew of the various sites, and that they knew A’ery little of New South Wales at all. I feel a pride in New South Wales, and I should like members of this Parliament to know more of it than they do. My idea in preparing the scheme which I asked the Government to agree to, Avas that members should visit the sites which had been submitted, and it would be no great saving - to cut out three or four of the sites proposed. I trust that members Will make themselves acquainted with the sites proposed. As I have previously said I intend to take a few members with me at my own expense to inspect the Upper Murray, Avith a new to telling honorable members what we think of that part of the country before the matter comes to a decision
We are at present only at the commencement of the investigation. After members of this House have inspected the proposed sites as members of the Senate have done, a good idea can be obtained from them as to the sites which need not be further considered. To ask the Government to take the responsibility of eliminating some of the proposed sites is not quite fair to the Government or to those interested in them ; but when members have seen them, a good idea may be obtained as to those which may be eliminated, and it would then be foolishness to .consider them further. I hope during the recess to be able to appoint several experts to consider questions as to water supply, climate, building material, class of land, and general suitability for the location of a city. I expect to have information upon those questions far advanced before the next meeting of Parliament.
– The experts should deal with the question from a federal standpoint, and not from the standpoint of one State.
– I quite recognise the importance of what the honorable and learned member has said. We should get the best experts obtainable, no matter from what State they come.
– Would it not be better that the experts should examine the sites first, that we might cut out those which they do not recommend.
– Not at all, and I will tell the honorable member why. The members of the Federal Parliament should decide as to the locality of the site to be chosen for the federal capital. The experts should not decide for the Federal Parliament the position in which the capital of Australia should be. That is a question of principle. Their duty should be to supply information upon which the members of the Federal Parliament can rely as to whether or not certain sites proposed are suitable for the establishment of a capital city.
– If members of the Federal Parliament select a locality which the experts afterwards say is unsuitable, the whole thing will have to be done over again.
– No. Members will have seen all the proposed sites, and they can then select the site which, in their opinion, is next best. The honorable member for Gippsland said that no one would think of going north of Sydney, but we are not fixing the federal city for a week or a month, or for 50 years, or for 100 years, but,
I hope, for all time, and we must keep in view what Australia may be a hundred years hence. Honorable members will recollect that the statisticians of Australia laid certain papers before the convention, in which they estimated that Armidale would be about the centre of the future population of Australia. That should be a justification for the inclusion of that locality as a proposed site. If, upon inspection, honorable members do not think it suitable it can be cut out,- but it would be ridiculous not to include in the first instance a site which would be in such a position as that described by the statisticians of Australia. They estimated that in 39 or 40 years there will be 7,500,000 people hi Queensland, and 8,000,000- in New South , Wales, and that the great bulk of the population will be north of Sydney. With respect to the expenses of the trip made by the members of the Senate I was first informed that they would amount to about £700. Then I was told that they would come to £800, and then that there were some accounts to come in, which would bring the figure up to £1,000 or a little more. For sixteen days’ travelling I consider that is a very small expense. Taking members by train there would be very little difference in the expense whether 25 or 40 were taken. But where the expense arose, especially in connexion with the first trip, was in obtaining vehicles at the various places to drive members about. There are two places where very long coach journeys have to be undertaken. From Twofold Bay to Eden is a distance of 45 miles ; from Eden to Bombala from 60 to 65 miles ; from Bombala to Delegate 50 miles, and from Delegate to Cooma nearly 70 miles. That journey has to be made both ways, and it was expensive to secure vehicles to carry the number of persons who went. The journey from Gundagi to Tumut has also to be made in coaches. I should like to say that a great many libellous’ statements have been made upon honorable senators who made that trip in connexion with the guzzling which was said to have gone on* I have been to a great many picnics, political and otherwise, in my life, and I never saw more abstemious men than those who made that trip.
– Who is responsible for the reports ?
– I think some of the press men must be responsible.
– No; senators Iia ve told me themselves that’ money was wilfully thrown away and wasted.
– I am very much surprised to hear that, and I should like any honorable senator to say how money was wasted. I do not think it was wasted. I think that at one or two places the charges for so large a number were too high, but we could scarcely have expected otherwise in connexion with the first trip. The management of it was in the hands of Mr. Upward, who managed the trip well, and did all he could to keep down the expense.
– Is there any necessity to hawk members of the press around in that wa y ?
– I think that in a community such as this, where the public desire to know as much as possible about everything, we should freely allow a representative of any newspaper of note to be present. I think there would be a public outcry if press representatives were absolutely prevented from going on a trip of the sort. Reports were a little exaggerated at times, but the press men I saw on the last trip were men with whom honorable senators or any one else might be prepared to associate.
– Will the honorable gentleman allow of any more concerts 1
– At Bombala there was a little fun in an innocent way for a charitable purpose. It did no harm, and it did a great deal of good. I should deprecate to the fullest extent any extravagance on a trip of this kind. But I do not believe that there was any extravagance.
– Is it true that a phonograph was hired at great expense to entertain the senators ‘(
– I did not hear or see a phonograph while I took part in the trip. I hold that this Parliament has a duty under the Constitution in dealing with this matter. It does not follow that we shall leave this building, for some years to come. The first step to be taken is to fix upon the site of the capital. Then the laying out of the buildings will have to be considered, and then there will be the erection of them. AVe all recognize that it will lake some years to do this work, but if we do not make a commencement to cany out the moral, and I think the legal obligations of Parliament, it will be impossible to say how many years it will be before we can move from Melbourne. In fairness to New South Wales, and to the representatives of New South Wales, and in justice to members of the Federal Parliament generally, this trip should be undertaken, and not only by one or two members. I took the opportunity to ask nearly all of the members of the House whether they would be prepared to go upon this occasion, and I have a list, containing 30 or 32 names of members who have said that they are prepared to go. I would like to see amongst them the honorable member for Gippsland, but the honorable member has spoken tome on this subject, and I know that he intends privately to visit a number of sites in a quieter way, and I am glad he is going, to do so. I hope that honorable members will make no attempt to reduce the amount for expenses, which I think cannot be considered extravagant.
Mr. MACDONALD-PATERSON (Brisbane). - I should not have risen to say another word upon this topic but for some suggestion that the matter might be dealt with in a parsimonious way. I hold that if the expense were ten times as large for such . an important function, if it is thoroughly performed by members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, it will be a merebagatelle compared with the beneficial results that must accrue to Australia. But why all this haste ? I see nothing in the Constitution to cause us to hurry. The Convention had no hand in drafting thesection with regard to the capital site. It was the result of the Premiers’ conference. What had the people of Australia .to do with declaring that the capital should be within 100 miles of Sydney?
– The second referendum was taken with that provision in the Commonwealth Bill.
– PATERSON. - The referendum was taken on the question of federation or no federation, and theory was - “ To the devil with the capital !” The people careel no more for the capital than for a rabbit warren.
– New South Wales would never have joined the federation except for: this provision.
– PATERSON.The New South Wales people cared as little about the -matter as the West Australians. It comes to this, after what fell from the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir
I Edward Braddon - that we shall have to alter the Constitution, and shall not have the capital in New South Wales at all.
– How does the honorable and learned member decant that out of anything I have said ?
– The pronouncement was so clear, coupled with the delightful brevity of the right honorable member’s speech, that I could not misapprehend him. Section 125 of the Constitution says that the seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament. This House is part of the Parliament. The members of the Senate have already been on a trip of inspection, but not more than a quarter of them could be induced to go to look at the sites. The cost of the trip was £100 per member for a fortnight. Yet here we are at the end of a twelve months’” session, with only £400 per head for a year’s work, and every man in the hands of his “ uncle ! “ Let us have £100 per head, and we will go to look at the capital sites when we please. The New South Wales members - the proteges of the mother State - are practically driving us to undertake this tour.
– Kicking us ! Mr. MACDONALD - PATERSON. - They are kicking us ! I recently suggested to a representative of New South Wales that the name of that State was too long. I said - “Why not call it by the old name of Wales- - Cambria.” I shall adopt that word for the future. These Cambrian members are kicking us to compel us to go on a tour in weather which will lead to nothing but bad coughs and pneumonia. Surely we are not going to allow these Cambrians to kick Parliament into the selection of a capital site? We ought, first of all, to have an opportunity of getting into good health, and mental muscularity must be restored. We have been here twelve months, and we are working harder now than we did in the first month after Parliament started. It is an improper thing for the Cambrian representatives to endeavour to drive the Western Australians, South Australians, Victorians,’ Queenslanders, and Tasmanians to undertake this journey after a year’s hard labour in this ill-ventilated and most inappropriately furnished Chamber, the acoustic properties of which would ‘ ruin a rabbit. Let us be restored to good health, and arrange our finances before we make this trip. What happened in regard to the last tour 1 Nearly the whole of the money was spent in New South Wales. After the frontier was reached, not a penny was spent in any other State. Yet we learn this evening that the Government of New South Wales has actually sent in a claim on account of the railway journey of the Senators.
– Not the Government, but the Railway Commissioners.
– But does the right honorable the Treasurer suppose that the Railway Commissioners acted with the Government in that matter ?
– I do not think that the Government knew anything of the claim, which is sent in by the Railway Commissioners in the ordinary way.
– The New South Wales Government, I believe, will pay the money.
– I should think so.
– PATERSON. - With the greatest respect to what has fallen from the Treasurer, I do not believe, speaking as an ex-Minister who has had the responsibility of administering important departments, that any Railway Commissioners in any State would send in a bill of this kind without reference to the Ministerial head of their department. At any rate, it is a fact that the New South Wales Railway department lias sent in this claim. Yet the members from that State are on their bended knees saying - “For God’s sake come and look at these sites, and allay the anxiety of our constituents.” As my honorable friend, the member for Maranoa, said a moment or two ago, sotto voce - “ What is the reason for all this hurry”? Why should we undertake this journey at the end of a session the like of which, I hope, we shall never see again ? We are wearied by the bad air of the Chamber, and tired of listening to each other.
– The trip would do the honorable and learned member a lot of good !
– The honorable member spoke of the beautiful climate of New South Wales. There is no such thing in the territory of that State. We have to go to Queensland to -get a fine climate. The fairest province in Australia was lost to New South Wales through her greed and her policy of centralization. Why is Victoria a separate State to-day ? Because of the New South Wal es pol icy of grab, cen tral - ization, and greed ! That has passed away now. When Dr. Lang helped Victoria and Queensland to separate from New South Wales no one knew that that movement was assisting in the development of separate parts of Australia that would ultimately bring about a grand combination of all the States upon the continent. Out of that evil has come forth good. But at the same time we are not going to permit New South Wales to lead us by the “ snout “ to inspect sites for the federal capital at once, when under the Constitution we can, if we like, take 10, 15, or 100 years about it.
– I think it is time that a word was said on behalf of New South Wales. The Government are to be complimented for having a backbone in this matter. It appears that the Minister for Home Affairs is in earnest in arranging for the trip, but from the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Brisbane it would appeal- that he has no .intention of going. He talked in the same strain two or three months ago, and other honorable members cheered him, indicating that they are not very anxious about the tour. Apparently the honorable and learned member is not desirous of keeping the compact that was entered into with New South Wales as regards the site for the capital being established within her territory. I believe the Victorian members are desirous of keeping that compact. There is no more opportune time than that now selected for making the trip. The season of the year is very suitable indeed, and I trust that honorable members will be in earnest in regard to the matter. At the same time, there must be economy in all things. According to the statement of the honorable member for Bland, 30 persons went on the Senate tour, which cost £900, and occupied about three weeks. Thus the cost was equal to £10 per week per man. It is impossible for any mercantile firm to send out a commercial traveller whose expenses would be less than £10 per week. I have had some experience, and I know that £10 a week is a reasonable amount to allow a commercial traveller for travelling expenses.
– I guarantee that if the senators had had to defray their own expenses they would have done the trip for half the money.
– I do not think that my honorable friend could do the trip for less money if he were to travel privately. If special trains are employed they must be paid for. In all probability New South Wales will bear that expenditure, and I feel sure that Victoria, which appears to be most desirous of making honorable members comfortable, will not make any exorbitant charge for any service it may render. It does not necessarily follow that all the money which is provided for the trip will be spent. If only 30 members go, I suppose the expenditure per head will not be more than it was when the senators went. But if double the number go the cost will be increased. I feel that it is an item which should bc passed without any comment, believing that it is the desire of Parliament, and of this committee in particular, to carry out the compact entered into with ‘ New South Wales, and not indefinitely put off the inspection of the sites which are supposed to be most suitable for the federal capital.
– The provision in the Constitution as to the location of the capital in New South Wales was a material factor in determining the entry of that State into the union, and as a Victorian member I feel that we must honorably stand by that bargain. We should do nothing, and say nothing, to even lead to the idea that we are endeavouring indefinitely, or improperly, to put off every fair opportunity of fixing the site of the capital. If it is thought by our friends from New South Wales that this is a proper and favorable time to take the trip, I am not going to say anything against it. The Government have charge of the business; they apparently think it is a convenient time to make the trip. It is a matter which should be left to them and to the representatives of New South Wales to a large extent. We must trust to the Government to cany out the trip at as reasonable a cost as the)’ can. We cannot limit them to a pound or two ; we can only trust to them, especially in the light of the criticism which has been made on the cost of the last trip. Whether it was well justified or not I do not pretend to say. I think, having regard to past experience, they will be able by-and-by to satisfy the House that they did everything which ought to be done to keep the expenditure within reasonable bounds. I have studiously refrained from saying a word as to the location of the federal capital. Ve should not prejudge the matter. We ought to keep it studiously in view that the ultimate determination should be made from a purely federal stand-point, and not from the stand-point of any one State. We should remember that the determining of the position of the capital within the territory of New South Wales which is available was to be left absolutely free to the Federal Parliament, having regard not merely to the interests of New South Wales, but to the interests of South Australia, Victoria, and to every other State in the union. Therefore, before Parliament can ultimately decide, we must have an independent report from experts able to speak from the stand-point of the various States, and it should approach the settlement of- the question with the desire to make a purely federal decision, while adhering to the limitations in the Constitution. I am not sure that the time to make the trip is opportune. The probability is that I shall not be able to go, and probably if I did go I should not derive as much benefit from the inspection now as I would from one later on. At the same time, the decision does not rest with me, and there appears to be a consensus of opinion that it is better to look at the sites now. I hold some opinions on the subject - they may be altered or. they may be confirmed. I shall say nothing as to what I am prepared to do as regards the selection of the sites ; but I arn sure that I am only echoing the thoughts and opinions of my fellow Australian representatives when I say that we should do nothing to bar the way to an honorable discharge of the compact in the Constitution.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth). - I did not intend to take any part in this debate; but one or two things naturally have struck me as peculiar. A great deal of the opposition has come from honorable members who represent States other than New South Wales. A great deal of what has been done has been done in order to give the representatives of other States an opportunity of seeing the sites in New South Wales. What better opportunity could there be for that purpose than during a lull in the session ? -How can we expect honorable members in the recess to go independently and look at the sites? The time for the expedition is opportune. There is a natural restlessness amongst the people of New South Wales that it has been to some extent put aside. I do not think it has been, put aside. With the work we had to do we could not have turned our attention to” this question much sooner. But there certainly is no better time in the year titan the present for viewing the sites. We ought not to cavil at the fact that a number of sites have been proposed foi” inspection. How can we reduce the number until we have seen most of those which are proposed ? We ought not to be led into any argument as to where the site should be, or its proximity to Sydney. The honorable and learned member for Indi has rather misconceived the duties of the commissioners. They will be appointed to decide with regard to a site qua site for a city, and whether that site, without any regard to its position relatively to the other States, has all the conditions of water supply, climate, building stone, soil, and other essentials. It will be entirely for them to give us an expert opinion, but it will be for this Parliament to say whether the site is convenient for all Australia. If we agree that the visit should be made, we have to trust to the Government to carry it out. We all know how difficult it is to exactly estimate the expenses of a tour when the arrangements are made, perhaps, hurriedly, and the Government cannot cavil at this thing or that thing. We must leave all this to the Executive Government.
– It will cost £50,000 before we have finally selected the site if we do not mind.
– i do not see that. An opportunity has been given, to the members of the Senate to see the sites, and now an opportunity is to be given to the members of this House.
– And another opportunity will be given to all those members who do not make the trip this time.
– if the
House chooses to vote the money for that purpose, that is its business. We are really considering one of the most importantmatters which could be considered by the House. Neither delay, money, nor care should be considered for a moment in view of the possibility of a mistake being made. I am not one of those who are anxious to hasten a decision. AVe are not making a city for a few years, but for all
I time. I shall never cavil at any delay if it is reasonable, although I come from New South Wales. By settling the question right off to suit the sensibilities of New Sou.th Wales, we might make a very fatal mistake, because one’s views on a question of this kind grow day by day. The proposal of the Government is a very reasonable one, and in view of the compact in the Constitution it ought not to be cavilled at.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- The debate has taken quite another turn from that which I intended. I only questioned the expenditure, but ever)’ speaker has discussed where the federal capital should be situated. The expenditure on the last trip was grossly extravagant, and no one knows that it was so better than does the Minister for Home Affairs. For instance, a municipal official boarded the train at one point and boarded and travelled with the senators all the time. J hoVe been told by those who made the trip that it was mismanaged in such a way that it caused considerably more expenditure than should have been incurred in taking thirteen or fourteen senators round the country. I have no objection to do the trip ; I ain very desirous of going, so that it can be got over and done with. ti understand that several honorable members feel that in their present state of health they would not be justified in attempting te make this trip ; because they believe that in some of the higher regions of New South Wales the climate is much colder than it is even here. I quite understand the position taken up by those honorable members, but they may be able to inspect the sites at some other time. My object in bringing this matter under the notice of the committee was. to prevent a repetition of the extravagance which took place during the tour of inspection made by members of the Senate, and I hope that economy will be observed. If I join in the tour, and I see any wild extravagance, such as has been described to mo, shall leave the party and decline to give my countenance to its proceedings.
– 1 can hardly understand how any honorable member can express an opinion as to the reported extravagance in connexion with the tour made by members of the Seriate without having details of the accounts before them. At the’ same time I hope that the experience gained during the last tour will enable the Government to effect economies and to reduce expenses to the lowest possible limit.
– I think that even with a larger number of representatives the expense will be less than on the former occasion, because of the experience we have gained in connexion with the hiring of carriages and coaches, and so on.
– I know the country through which honorable members will have to pass, and I am fully aware of the heavy expense which travelling sometimes entails. In the Monaro district there are no towns at which any large number of vehicles can be obtained, and those who wish to hire them are at the mercy of the owners of such conveyances as may be available. These men are not up-to-date in their commercial instincts unless they are ready to take advantage of the wealthy Commonwealth Government. I have paid as much as £V 10s. for the hire of a buggy, which I drove myself, from Cooma to Bombala and back, and this may give honorable members some idea of the high charges that have to be paid upon such a tour as was recently undertaken. At the same time, I hope that any extravagance will be avoided. I trust that, the opinions expressed in the newspapers with regard to the capital site question will not influence honorable members in dealing with it. It is quite certain that there are very strong influences working for delay, and that unfair pressure is being brought to bear to defer the selection of the site. It is the duty of this Parliament to select the federal capital site as early as possible, and honorable members should acquaint themselves with the advantages offered by the various sites in order that they may be able to exercise an intelligent vote when the final selection is made. It will be very unfair to New South Wales if this matter is hung up any longer than is absolutely necessary. A number of sites have been reported upon as suitable, and as Crown lands are being reserved in several localities so that they may be handed over to the Commonwealth, it is unfair to hold matters in suspense for any unduly long period. The Government are doing right in pushing this matter on, and J hope that no honorable members will be alarmed about the effect which the proposed trip may have on their health. The climate in all the localities which have to be visited Ls good, . and unfortunately there is not much fear of honorable members being overtaken by wet weather. Perhaps they would not so much mind getting a wetting, because we all know how very beneficial a copious . downfall would prove. I wish to mention a small matter connected with the Postal department. There has been some delay in the payment of some of the accounts in Sydney. In one case a contractor for the delivery of material in connexion with the telegraph service was not paid his account for over four months.
– That was because it was arranged that the State Government should continue to pay the accounts out of their loan funds ; but they stopped on the 31st December. I believe the accounts are now paid.
– I know of another case in which sixteen workmen were entitled to overtime payment for unloading a cable. But while four of them were paid, twelve had to wait for two months for their money ; and I do not know that they would have received it es-en now but for my having made special representations on the subject. That was a case of gross neglect on the part of a stupid officer, and I hope it -will not occur again. .
– I think that the thanks of the committee, and of the community generally, are due to the honorable member for Kennedy, for having directed attention to the extravagant expenditure in connexion with the visit to the sites for the federal capital. We should toko care that we do not incur any unnecessary expense in the selection of a capital site, otherwise we shall make the whole subject stink in the nostrils of the people. It is very desirable that the federal capital site should be selected without undue delay. I shall probably join in the inspection of the suggested sites, and I. shall not hesitate to expose any extravagance that I may see, and to follow the course suggested by the honorable member for Kennedy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and agreed to.
Resolved (motion by Sir George Turner) -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Committee of Supply, reported and agreed to.
Bill presented and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Resolxed (motion by Sir George Turner) -
That the House at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 2 p.m.
House adjourned at 10. 3 p. m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 April 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020424_reps_1_9/>.